Missouri women's tennis finds balance between school and sports

Thursday, January 30, 2014 | 7:11 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Most college students do not take two road trips spanning almost 4,000 miles in the course of 10 days.

The members of the Missouri women's tennis team are not most college students.

Missouri tennis will travel to the East Coast for the second consecutive weekend, as the team plays at North Carolina State on Saturday and at Wake Forest on Sunday. The team dropped two matches last weekend in Gainesville, Fla.

The Tigers look to turn things around after losing 4-0 to both Harvard and Louisville at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

But along the competitions — and the long road trips — comes the question of how to balance academics. The team usually drives to St. Louis the night before their departure flight, which normally leaves in the wee hours of the morning.

"[We] tend to miss a lot of Friday class," sophomore Madison Rhyner said. "Our advisers make an effort to keep our Fridays pretty light."

Despite all the travel hours, the Tigers are well acquainted with academic success. The team recorded a 3.32 GPA and a 100 percent graduation success rate last spring.

Senior Cierra Gaytan-Leach is instrumental in the team's triumphs on and off the court. Gaytan-Leach was named to the spring Southeastern Conference academic honor roll while competing in No. 1 singles and doubles.

But she knows road trips are all business.

"I would never even think of cracking a book on game day," Gaytan-Leach said. "Every match is like a whole-day production."

Rhyner, who was an Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar athlete and was named to the SEC first-year academic honor roll her freshman year, also stressed the importance of staying on top of classwork.

That doesn't make it any easier in practice. Catch-up is part of the game once the team gets back from its cross-country treks.

"We have about an hour of mandatory study time every road trip," Rhyner said. "But I'm generally pretty unproductive on the road."

Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.

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