COLUMBIA – When freshman Danielle Day clinched her singles match against Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon, sophomore Kaitlyn Ritchie probably smiled bigger than anyone in the Green Tennis Center.
Day’s win sealed the victory for the Tigers and, as the team came up and congratulated her, Ritchie gave Day a huge hug.
While the whole team was excited to begin conference play with a win over Oklahoma, it meant even more to Ritchie, who is from Oklahoma and has ties to the team.
Oklahoma was one of the colleges that recruited Ritchie out of high school, but she ended up turning the Sooners down to come to Missouri.
Ritchie also has family ties to the team. Her father and uncle both teach tennis professionally in Oklahoma, and some of the players and coaches on the Oklahoma squad have worked with her uncle.
“The assistant coach actually took (lessons) from my uncle and I’ve known her since I was like 8 (years old),” Ritchie said.
Ritchie’s opponent, Peta Maree Lancaster, also took lessons from her uncle and their younger relatives have grown close through tennis.
“Her younger sister and my cousin travel to everything together,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie lost the first set of her singles match, but found a way to come back and win the next two. When she was down, Ritchie said she told herself she couldn’t lose and that knowing her opponent personally gave her even more desire to win her match.
After losing the doubles point in a tight match at No. 1 doubles, the Tigers came out and claimed five of the six singles points.
Missouri’s 5-2 win over Oklahoma snapped a seven-year losing drought, which had coach Blake Starkey beaming after the match.
“That scoreboard, 5-2, that just looks awesome,” he said.
The Tigers lost all seven previous matches to Oklahoma 4-3, so for Starkey, the win meant just as much, if not more, than a win over Kansas would mean.
Missouri moves to 5-4 on the year and 1-0 in Big 12 play. All the players said now they’re really looking forward to the rest of their conference matches after getting a big win at home.
“It feels really good,” Day said. “We’re gonna have a really good year this year."