COLUMBIA — Since coming to Missouri, coach Blake Starkey has put a lot of focus into doubles.
Starkey, who trains his team hard during the week, said he usually expects the team to perform better than its opposition.
"I always expect that (to be successful against other teams in doubles),” Starkey said. “I always have kind of gone into it that way.”
Junior Mallory Weber said the team gets behind Starkey's focus.
"Doubles has always been a focus for this team since I came here as a freshman," Weber said. "He gives us a lot of material to look at. He knows his stuff when it comes to doubles, and he passes that down to us."
In doubles, players have to adjust to the expanded court, a partner and a different strategy. Practice for doubles demands just as much time as singles does, and Starkey thinks that the extra work helps the players’ confidence on the court.
“We train them really hard during the week in practice,” Starkey said. "I think it’s an area that they have been confident in."
Junior Kaitlyn Ritchie said that the players like to play doubles as much as Starkey likes to coach it.
“I think it is fun because it kind of brings in the team aspect of tennis and all the stuff like that,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie is adjusting to a new partner, senior Sofia Ayala, this year after both of their partners graduated after last season. Ritchie and Ayala played the Ace for the Cure tournament at the beginning of October, and they are set to play beside each other in the upcoming ITA Regional tournament in Norman, Okla., beginning Wednesday.
“This will be new for Sof and I,” Ritchie said. “We’ve only played together for one tournament. I think for both of us, we’re really excited for the possibility of us playing together because we have a lot of potential. We both love to play doubles, and I think we’re really going to enjoy it.”
Starkey hopes his team's preparation helps in adversity.
“Of course we’ve sometimes run into some people that get us,” Starkey said, “But that’s always been a thing that we’re good at."