Momentum for Missouri tennis continues into offseason

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | 9:48 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri tennis team finished its spring season by winning three of its final five matches, including its first victory in an Southeastern Conference tournament.

The good news has continued for the Tigers. Senior Cierra Gaytan-Leach was voted second-team All-SEC on April 23. Missouri added Syracuse transfer Brittany Lashway to its roster for next season on Jan. 28. Her sister Brianna committed to Missouri on April 18.

Gaytan-Leach's honor was the first all-conference honor for a Missouri tennis player since 2005. 

"It’s very prestigious, because there’s so many good players in this league," coach Sasha Schmid said.

Gaytan-Leach went 14-11 in singles and 11-11 in doubles. Gaytan-Leach also had two unfinished singles matches against 11th-ranked Cristina Stancu of Texas A&M, both of which Gaytan-Leach led in the third set. Stancu received first-team All-SEC honors.

Gaytan-Leach had four wins over ranked opponents and three singles wins in conference. 

"I think when (SEC coaches) looked at the totality of her record, it was very clear she was one of the better No. 1's in the league," Schmid said. "That’s a very difficult thing to accomplish."

Filling holes left by Gaytan-Leach, Elisha Gabb and Rachel Stuhlmann are the Lashway sisters. Schmid was in the process of recruiting Brianna Lashway when Brittany Lashway decided she wanted to transfer from Syracuse. Brianna Lashway will be a freshman, and Brittany Lashway will have sophomore status. 

"They wanted the challenge of playing in the SEC, and for them, it became more and more intriguing to actually be teammates," Schmid said. "I think they just thought it’d be cool to have this college experience together. We’re all excited. I haven’t coached sisters before, so it’s an interesting dynamic."

The sisters are from Brandenton, Florida. Brittany Lashway went 6-4 in singles and 11-4 in doubles her freshman year at Syracuse.

Schmid said the sisters should play an important role on next year's team. Though they have experience playing doubles together, Schmid says she will consider having them play apart.

"You’ve really gotta have three comprehensive (doubles) teams and not just one," Schmid said. "But it’s interesting to have incoming players who are so familiar with each other and have had such doubles experience (together) before the year gets started."

Schmid has scholarship money available, which she plans to use. The new Mizzou Tennis Complex, which hosted the 2014 SEC tournament, helps with recruiting, as does the team's success at the end of the 2013-14 season.

"That's our selling point," Schmid said. "Selling the building, selling the momentum and selling the conference and the level of tennis and the direction of the program is definitely our plan in recruiting."

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.

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