Hunched over after her match, Erika Josbena could not contain the tears. With her elbows on her knees and head buried in her hands, she stayed courtside after everyone else had left. When her face finally reemerged, it was bright red. It wasn’t from embarrassment, but because she had just lost a heartbreaking three-set tiebreak that lasted more than three hours.
After giving her a few minutes, teammates Charlotte Bellis and Stephanie Johns made their way over to console her. The loss, however, gave Oklahoma State a 5-2 victory over the Missouri tennis team Sunday at the Green Tennis Center. The Cowgirls claimed the doubles point and won the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 6 singles matches.
“It was much closer than the 5-2 score indicates,” MU coach Blake Starkey said. “It’s very deceiving.”
Missouri has been on the verge of winning, with Sunday setting an example. Starkey said he expects the Tigers to begin winning the close ones soon.
“It’s hard to go out and do it,” he said. “The team gets to the point where they’re sick of being competitive and they kick the door in.”
A bright spot for the Tigers was the play of Yelena Olshanskaya. Playing in the top spot because of Hana Kraftova’s ongoing back trouble, Olshanskaya lost the first set 6-4, then was down 4-3 in the second when Starkey spoke with her.
“When she went down...I said ‘Now is when you have to fight,’” Starkey said. “You don’t let up until you’re shaking hands after the match.”
Although Olshanskaya said she was playing the same way throughout the match, Starkey said she “buckled down” mentally. Whichever is true, Olshanskaya came back to win the second and third sets to take the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
“There is no difference (between playing in the top spot and other spots),” Olshanskaya said. “We’re playing tennis. They might make fewer mistakes, or hit better shots, but I don’t focus on the number. It brings out a better game in me.”
Kraftova, MU’s top player, sat out her fourth straight match with back problems. No timetable has been set for her return.
“We hope we can get her back up soon,” Starkey said, “but to say we lost because we were missing Hana is a crutch. It’s affected us, but these girls are capable of winning.”
Missouri volunteers for various community events throughout the year, but Saturday went beyond taking part in a free youth clinic, when it helped at the Central Missouri Food Bank.
“It’s great knowing we helped the community out,” Josbena said, “even if it was stuffing hot dogs into bags. We had fun.”
Starkey has been involved in community service since he was young, and said he is a firm believer in its benefits.
“I had one of the workers come up to me while we were there and asked if this was something they wanted to do or if it was something I was making them do,” he said. “I told them it was something I was making them do, but I think it helps you appreciate where you are in life and teaches lessons.”
“It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve done this year,” Johns said in a release. “But it’s good and the feeling stays with you. We always feel like we have done something important. I’d do it again.”
— Ryan Gavin
MU BASEBALL: Jared Schweitzer hit a two-run home run and had three RBIs for Kansas in a 9-6 vicory over the Tigers on Sunday in Lawrence, giving the Jayhawks two-of-three wins in the weekend series.
Erik Morrison added a solo home run for the Jayhawks (20-11, 4-5 Big 12), and Gus Milner had two hits and two RBIs.
Missouri’s Zane Taylor hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the first inning, and Gary Arndt added a pair of RBIs for the Tigers (16-11, 6-3).
Missouri rallied for three runs in the ninth. Freshman Kyle Mach led off with a pinch-hit single and scored on sophomore Dan Pietroburgo’s double. Freshman David Cales then drove in Pietroburgo with a single through the left side. After a pair of walks, Cales scored on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Mense.
Tigers starter Rick Zagone gave up four runs on seven hits in three innings to take the loss.