Tigers tennis players close out Ace for the Cure tournament

Monday, October 5, 2009 | 5:03 p.m. CDT; updated 10:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 5, 2009

COLUMBIA —The Missouri tennis team hosted Texas Tech, Drake and Louisville in its second annual Ace for the Cure tennis tournament over the weekend. For the players, playing for a cause like breast cancer awareness is a great feeling, but playing other competition is just as rewarding.

“First, (I like) the fact that we’re helping for a good cause, it’s amazing,” MU senior Sophia Ayala said. “And the opportunity to get to play matches against different people, not only our teammates, and the excitement to be in a match and playing. It’s awesome. It’s important that we play tournaments in fall.”

Missouri coach Blake Starkey said he saw the tournament in two ways. There was the off-the-court tournament that helped raise money for breast cancer awareness and the on-the-court tournament that got his players out of practice-mode and back into real competition.

“It’s just another fall tournament,” Starkey said. “What you’re trying to do is just get your kids out there. We’ve practiced for so long, I think they’re just excited to play other people from other teams.”

The tournament was different from other fall tournaments, however. Opposing teams were given housing so that they didn’t need to find hotel rooms. On Saturday morning, during the doubles brackets, each team wore commemorative tournament shirts, and each match was played with pink tennis balls for what Starkey described as “just a reminder.” The teams were also treated to a luncheon Saturday afternoon and listened to a guest speaker, who spoke about awareness and early detection.

“This is the second year we’ve done this and it went over really well,” Starkey said. “This is an important issue for women. It’s one of those things that I feel good about that we’re able to point a finger at and say ‘be aware of this.’”

The Tigers sent seven players into the finals, which included two contests between Missouri players. Junior Mallory Weber defeated sophomore and doubles partner Jamie Mera 6-4, 7-5  and junior Danielle Day defeated Maureen Modesto, her doubles partner 6-3 in the third set. In doubles action, freshman Andrea Lewis and senior Kristen Bleakley earned another finals victory for Missouri, defeating Louisville's Sarah Miller and Stefanie Villajuan 8-6.

Junior Kaitlyn Ritchie and Lewis had their consolation singles matches with Texas Tech opponents cut short because the Red Raiders needed to catch a flight.

The Tigers will resume play Oct. 21-25 when they travel to Norman, Okla. for the ITA Regionals.



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