COLUMBIA – Blaine Gabbert and the Missouri football team wasn’t the only Missouri team competing in the state of Nevada over the weekend.
While the Missouri football team was on its way to a 31-21 victory over Nevada in Reno, the Tigers' tennis team was playing at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Invitational in the first of three tournaments on their fall schedule.
The Tigers opened their schedule against quality opponents in the University of Texas, which is projected to be a top-10 team, hosts UNLV, ranked in the top 30, Northern Arizona and New Mexico State.
“For the first tournament (of the season), it was a great venue for us to start the year out on,” Missouri coach Blake Starkey said. “I saw some things I liked, some things I didn’t like, it’s some level ground, and gave us a plan to work forward from.”
Starkey said he was impressed with the way newcomers Andrea Lewis and Kristen Bleakley competed. Lewis, a freshman from Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, Okla., won two matches, including an impressive 6-2, 6-2 victory against UNLV's Ella Bourchier. Bleakley, a fifth-year senior transfer from North Carolina State, won the consolation crown in Flight 3 singles, defeating New Mexico State’s Aleksa Costa 2-6, 6-4, 3-0.
“They’re certainly both going to more than compete for spots in the starting six,” Starkey said. “This is where some of that starts to take shape, is when you play those tournaments, but we’re going to learn a little more after these tournaments coming up.”
The higher spots in the Tigers' lineup, sophomore Jamie Mera, Bleakley, junior Maureen Modesto and senior Sophia Ayala, struggled the first day, dropping their first matches, but each bounced back by winning a match the next day.
Despite the trip being focused around the tournament, the players were given time off to explore Las Vegas, within reason of course.
“This isn’t exactly the team that I would be worried about,” Starkey said. “They certainly were able to go out and do a little shopping and some people watching. I think they had a good time.”
The Tigers continue the fall schedule with their annual Ace for the Cure Tournament this weekendat the Green Tennis Center.