COLUMBIA - The “Ace for the Cure” tennis tournament marks the second tournament in a row that the Tigers have faced a Big 12 opponent, and the Missouri players seem to think that it will give them an advantage once the conference season begins play in mid-March.
Missouri faced Texas at the UNLV Invitational in Las Vegas, and hosted Texas Tech this weekend.
Junior Maureen Modesto is playing her third season for MU tennis, and she thinks that its not only the Big 12 competition that is going to help the team, but that the higher the level of competition will not only get it ready for the spring, but help it prepare for the entire season.
“It’s nice to get a feel for that big play before the actual season even starts,” she said. “So in that sense, yeah, I think that playing Big 12 teams is an advantage.”
Senior Sophia Ayala says that the best part about playing conference teams is that they get to meet and become familiar with the other players.
“It’s not like studying their games,” Ayala said. “You get to know them, you know how they play, you know how the team is structured, what they do, what their strategy is. So you get used to it when you play them in the spring as an official match.”
Freshman Andrea Lewis doesn’t know what to expect yet since this is her first season playing for MU, but she imagines that these early matches in the fall tournaments are going to help her prepare for them in the future, and it gives the players on the team another way to bond.
“It great starting off with a strong schedule,” Lewis said. “I love playing teams from our conference because it gives more camaraderie on our team because these are our normal opponents. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Tigers head coach Blake Starkey agrees that playing the quality competition is going to be beneficial, but he doesn’t necessarily believe that it is an advantage to play these conference opponents, or that it will predict future results.
“I never look that far ahead,” said Starkey. “You can kind of take a look at them, but we play them (Texas Tech) in Lubbock (Texas) and that will be then.”
Starkey recalls a season where the Tigers met Iowa State in all three preseason fall tournaments, and won 28 of the 30 match-ups. But when the Tigers traveled to Ames, Iowa in the spring for conference play, they lost 4-3.
“They got the four matches that counted most,” he said. “So I don’t really look at that (playing conference opponents in fall tournaments). I don’t put a lot of stock in that. On the day of a match, anything can happen.”
The Tigers continue play in the "Ace for the Cure" tournament at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Green Tennis Center in Columbia.