The Missouri tennis team was close and, coach Blake Starkey knew it.
With the match on the line, Starkey took the bleachers at the Green Tennis Center and urged those in attendance to cheer louder.
In the end, though, Baylor overcame the noise and a late rally to defeat the Tigers 5-2 on Sunday in Big 12 Conference play.
The close match was nothing new for the 35th-ranked Bears (5-7, 2-1), who have played four teams in the top 10 and three in the top 20.
“Those girls are battle tested and it came through when it got tight,” Missouri coach Blake Starkey said. “Once again we were right there. I proud of the way we fought.”
Trailing 3-2, Missouri (8-6, 2-5) won the first sets of its No. 5 and No. 6 singles matches. The Bears responded and pushed the Tigers to three sets.
In the No. 5 match, Mary Barry won the first set against Daria Potapova 6-0, but lost 7-5, 6-3 in the next two.
Barry battled a lower-back strain and struggled to hold serve.
“(Barry) gutted it out,” Starkey said. “She couldn’t have done anything more than she did. I’m proud of her.”
At No. 6, Erika Josbena won the first set against Iva Mihaylova 6-2 and lost the next two 6-2, 6-1.
In the second and third sets, more than 50 percent of Josbena’s games went to deuce.
“It’s getting a little frustrating because I feel like I’m playing well and I’m really close to pulling out the wins,” Josbena said. “It would just be nice to be winning more.”
Close matches in doubles play also cost Missouri the doubles point.
Missouri’s Urska Juric and Katka Sevcikova lost to Stephanie Balzert and Carolin Walter 9-7 in No. 1 doubles.
Yelena Olshanskaya and Josbena lost 8-6 at No. 2 doubles.
“I definitely think when they got the doubles point it put us behind the eight ball to start,” Starkey said. “We were right there; we could have won it.”
Starkey said a shot or two determined the matches. Missouri didn’t make mistakes, but Baylor hit winners.
“We lost the doubles point, which is not always the best thing because we needed to go out and win the four singles,” Josbena said. “I mean overall the team played well we didn’t pull out all the matches we needed.”
Sevcikova beat Balzert 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 at No. 2 singles, and Hana Kraftova added a 6-3, 6-1 win for Missouri at No. 3 singles.
Baylor’s Walter beat Juric 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles. Juric won the first set despite falling behind 2-0. Unforced errors plagued her in the second and third sets.
“It seems like we’re losing every match 4-3, in this case 5-2, but it was still pretty close,” Sevcikova said. “I’m still waiting for that breakthrough match.”