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Missouri tennis team comes out on winning end of one-point victory

Sunday, April 19, 2009 | 9:55 p.m. CDT; updated 10:08 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 19, 2009
Sofia Ayala lines up her return during her singles match against Iowa State's Reka Kelemen on Sunday. Ayala won 6-3, 6-3 to seal the 4-3 win for the Tigers.

COLUMBIA – One-point losses have been an issue with the Missouri women’s tennis team this season. The Tigers dropped five matches this season by one point, with four of those coming in Big 12 Conference play.

It only seems fitting that Missouri would then end the regular season with a 4-3 win against Iowa State.

“It was kind of poetic that it was 4-3 after having that many get away from us,” coach Blake Starkey said.

The Tigers had lost their last two home matches by one point each heading into their final match against Iowa State on Sunday. Trailing the Cyclones 3-2 with the final two singles positions remaining to play, Missouri picked up wins at both spots to squeak out the victory.

“A weaker group of people would’ve folded,” Starkey said. “They’ve been through a lot of really tough matches.”

Junior Sofia Ayala was the last Missouri player off the court, beating sophomore Reka Kelemen 6-3, 6-3 to seal the win. But the story of the day was sophomore Kaitlyn Ritchie battling back to win the No. 5 singles against sophomore Liza Wischer.

Ritchie has experience winning close matches. She did it time and again as a freshman last season for the Tigers. So she said having all eyes on her at the end of the day doesn’t phase her.

Ritchie backed up what she said, coming back from 5-1 down to send the first set into a tiebreaker, which she narrowly won. Ritchie then cruised to a 6-1 win in the second set.

Missouri will now prepare for the Big 12 Tournament, which begins Thursday in Norman, Okla. Starkey said his players will have the day off Monday, then practice on Tuesday before heading down to the tournament on Wednesday.

One area of concern for the Tigers will be the No. 1 position, at which they finished 0-11 in conference play. But Starkey said his lineup has been consistent all year and will remain so for the tournament.


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