COLUMBIA – Women’s tennis head coach Blake Starkey said this spring has been the hardest schedule his team’s every played since he’s coached at MU.
So now with conference play beginning Sunday, he's is excited to face some Big 12 schools.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve had about enough of the Big Ten (Conference),” Starkey said. “They have a lot of good teams and we’ve played some of their good teams.”
Earlier in the season, the Tigers suffered road losses at Purdue and Ohio State, then lost to Minnesota last weekend at home. Friday night was the final time MU would face a Big Ten opponent this season, and it ended with the same result as the Tigers fell to No. 75 Wisconsin.
But Starkey is less concerned with his team’s record than he is with his players’ growth.
“The whole thing was getting up to a certain speed,” he said. “We were willing to lose some matches, we’re trying to get better.”
While Missouri will head into Big 12 play with a 4-4 record, Starkey’s players have bought into his method.
“There are lots of teams we could play and have a great winning record, but these tough matches make us better,” freshman Jamie Mera said. “And I definitely think they make me better.”
Jessica Giuggioli is the lone senior on the team, and having been around for a couple years, she said she feels the tough schedule will pay off.
“In some ways it’s nice to go into Big 12’s with a lot of wins,” Giuggioli said, “but I think we definitely got more out of this.”
Starkey said his biggest concern going forward is his team’s ability to win tight matches.
“I think we need to just close things out,” he said.
Mera is one player who has thrived in those pressure situations thus far.
“All the matches I’ve won have been tight, hard fought matches,” Mera said, “and that makes it even better when you can pull it out.”
To open conference play, Missouri hosts Oklahoma at 1 p.m. on Sunday.