Late dagger downs Mizzou tennis

By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Sunday, Feb. 15-

The Missouri tennis team saw their purple patch of form take a hiatus Sunday afternoon against the University of Nebraska, falling 4-3 in the final match of the day, No. 6 singles. The Tigers had won four in a row and six out of the last seven team matches, outscoring opponents 40-7 prior to their loss in Lincoln, Neb.

The day started off as planned with back-to-back victories in the doubles draw. Juniors Kelli Hine and Madison Rhyner set the tone with an 8-2 victory over Maggy Lehmicke and Lisa Anderson. Next, the in-form duo of sophomores Beatriz Machado Santos and Brittany Lashway earned another win to give the Tigers the early doubles point of the match. The tandem defeated Mackenna Maddox and Katerina Matysova by breaking serve three times for an 8-3 score.

However, the singles platform posed early difficulties for the away side as Hine and Santos both dropped their individual matches 6-4, 6-2. Consequentially, Hine’s seven-match win streak and Santos’s six match win streak both came to an agonizing end.

Down 2-1 in the first set, sophomore Cassidy Spearman came through for Mizzou to even things up. The California native dug deep into the third and final set for a pair of service breaks to grab the much-needed 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory. Spearman improved her overall singles record to 8-1 and extended her current winning streak to four matches.

After Madison Rhyner, another Tiger in exceptional form, was outplayed in a 6-2, 6-3 defeat to Cornhusker Spurti Shivalingalah, Missouri found itself in a win or go home situation down 3-2.

The pressure was put on the shoulders of young freshman Brianna Lashway and the Sunshine State resident came through in extraordinary fashion in the No. 5 matchup. Lashway was in total control despite her narrow margin of victory 6-4, 6-4 to set up a winner take all final draw.

Freshman Claire Riley battled it out against Nebraska’s Anderson, who had been throttled in her earlier doubles match. Momentum seemed to be on Mizzou’s side with Lashway’s performance, but the Cornhuskers’ No. 6 ousted Riley rather comfortably 6-3, 6-1. Riley was another Tiger who came into Sunday’s match having won four of her last five.

The loss will no doubt be a disappointing one, especially after such a dominating last two weeks both at home and on the road. Mizzou may be inclined to do a little soul searching to make sure the fire of focus and intensity remains lit in the coming weeks.

Head coach Sasha Schmid has done a sensational job with this team, instilling a winning mentality to a group of primarily underclassmen. Schmid and the Tigers have another opportunity to rekindle their superb form ahead of conference play beginning March 1st at Arkansas.

That opportunity takes place next weekend when Missouri will travel to the southern edge of Texas to face Houston on Fridayat 3 p.m. before facing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday at 1 p.m.