Missouri tennis drops conference match against LSU

Republished from the Columbia Missourian

Photo by Sarah Rothberg

Photo by Sarah Rothberg

COLUMBIA — When the Missouri tennis team dropped a disappointing 4-2 match against No. 22 Kentucky last Sunday, the No. 2 doubles team lost close, the No. 3 doubles loss wasn’t close, and the No. 1 doubles didn’t get to finish because the Wildcats had already clinched the doubles point.

Friday’s match against the LSU Tigers was a different cat, but ultimately the same story for Missouri.

“It actually felt like the exact same scenario today,” coach Sasha Schmid said.

Kelli Hine and Tracy Dong lost 8-3 in the No. 3 set. Cassidy Spearman and Madison Rhyner dropped the No. 2 set 8-6. And, in what is becoming a familiar story for top doubles duo Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Rachel Stuhlmann, their 7-3 lead was for naught.

“I’m disappointed that having that happen to us on Sunday didn’t translate to dealing with it a little bit better today,” Schmid said. “I think that it was probably more in our hands today than necessarily in LSU’s hands, so that’s unfortunate.”

With LSU spotted a point, Missouri had to win four of the six singles matches to notch its first win of the season in the Southeastern Conference.

Although Missouri won the first sets in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 matches, LSU clinched match play early with wins by No. 6 Skylar Holloway (6-2, 6-3), No. 5 Ella Taylor (6-4,-6-2) and No. 4 Abby Owens (6-0, 7-6).

Schmid said Thursday that Missouri needed about three conference wins to get into NCAA tournament territory, and LSU was one of those three she thought Missouri could pick up.

With the loss, the Tigers fell to 5-11 and 0-5 in conference, one game further from a .500 record, which is required for an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going to have to go pick off somebody else,” Schmid said. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to LSU. We’ve just got some really tough teams in our conference, and when you don’t play a top 10, you really kind of gotta dig in.”

Seven of the nation’s top-25 teams play in the SEC.

Though the win was out of reach, Missouri still had a chance to tally a few points.

About 20 minutes after LSU secured a victory, No. 2 Hine dropped her match in the third set (6-3, 2-6, 3-6). Then Gaytan-Leach put the Tigers on the board with a win over Joana Vale Costa (6-3, 5-7, 6-3).

All that remained was Stuhlmann’s match. Before Friday, Stuhlmann had recorded two of Missouri’s three points in SEC play.

Stuhlmann trailed 3-5 in her second set but fought back to 6-5 with a chance to clinch the match. Stuhlmann and Gabrielle Otero fought through at least five deuces before Otero forced a tiebreaker.

LSU won that tiebreaker and the following super-tiebreaker, which was played in place of a third set.

The game was much closer than its 6-1 finish. Schmid thought Missouri had a chance to record four points between the Nos. 1-3 and No. 5 spots.

“Anyone that’s not here doesn’t get to see it, because the score doesn’t reflect it, but we’re right there,” Spearman said.

Still, Friday was more of a disappointment than a step in the right direction, Schmid said.

The Tigers get another shot in SEC competition at noon Sunday against Arkansas. Schmid said the Razorbacks, like Kentucky and LSU, are a “meat of the SEC” team that Missouri needs to defeat.

Missouri also hosts Drake at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Original: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/a/172456/missouri-tennis-drops-conference-match-against-lsu/ (with paywall)

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