COLUMBIA – The No. 1 singles spot has not been kind to the Missouri women’s tennis team this spring.
The Tigers had failed to get a victory at No. 1 singles in Big 12 Conference play heading into their home match Saturday afternoon against Colorado. So Missouri coach Blake Starkey tried something different, putting freshman Jamie Mera at No. 1 for the first time this season.
“It was a little bit nerve racking at first,” Mera said.
Starkey approached Mera in practice a few days ago with his idea. At first, Mera was taken aback.
Starkey tried to reassure her. “I said, ‘It’s a match, go play, do what you’ve been doing all year. It’s not a number, you’re going to play a girl from a school.’”
Still, it took Mera a little time to shake off her nerves.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so I’ve been nervous about it for a couple days,” she said, “but today it was just like whatever.”
Mera looked more like an experienced college tennis player than a freshman when she began play against Buffaloes junior Camila Velassi. But after winning the first set 6-2, she dropped the next two, 2-6, 4-6, dropping Missouri to 0-9 at No. 1 in Big 12 play.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to be that close and not get it,” Mera said, “but I played really well, so I have to be happy with it.”
Starkey was surprised that Mera dropped the match after playing such a great first set, but he was pleased with the freshman’s effort. So pleased that he hinted at Mera becoming a constant at the No. 1 spot.
“The way she fights and the direction we’re going, I can see her being there a little bit more often,” Starkey said, though he would not comment on who would be playing No. 1 in Missouri’s next match.
Mera’s loss clinched the match for Colorado (10-7, 6-2), which won 4-3. It was another close loss for the Tigers (7-10, 3-6 Big 12), who seem to have been on the wrong side of that score frequently this season.
“I’m just tired of getting close,” Starkey said. “I don’t want to necessarily just be competitive, I want to win these. And this was here for the winning today.”
The Tigers have two more chances to get wins as they close out their season with home matches against Nebraska on Friday and then Iowa State on April 19.