Missouri State’s women’s tennis team headed to the ITA Central Regional Championship, hosted by the University of Iowa on Oct.12-16.
The ITA Regionals includes over 160 players from 26 schools. The tournament is the Bears’ toughest fall tournament due to it containing some of the best Division I players from schools such as Mizzou, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa.
“Our goal was to qualify players into the main draw and play high-quality matches,” head coach Mallory Weber said.
The competition featured a qualifying and main draw in singles and one draw of doubles.
The Bears took four players to Iowa City. In singles, for the Bears were freshmen Mara Presot and Clara Gandara Gonzalez and senior Fati Khamissi, and in the main draw for singles was junior Alye Darter. Darter and Khamissi competed in the main draw doubles. Khamissi and Gandara Gonzalez won individual titles at the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Championships on Oct. 7.
“I love this tournament because we get a chance to play the bigger schools who are really going to push us,” Darter said.
Presot was up first for the Bears, losing 6-2, 6-0 to her Oklahoma opponent, and she played Northern Iowa on Day 2.
Khamissi and Gandara Gonzalez dropped their matches in the qualifiers. Khamissi with 6-4, 6-2 and Gandara Gonzalez 6-3, 6-1.
“I typically bring our top four players to this tournament, but we had two girls out sick and two freshmen, Presot and Gandara Gonzalez, step up and get a go,” Weber said. “I saw them grow more in this tournament than our entire fall season, so that was a success.”
Darter and Khamissi fell in an 8-4 decision to Minnesota in main doubles.
“Though we lost our first match in doubles, it was fun to play with Fati considering we don’t get that opportunity often,” Darter said. “We had our moments, and we were in every game, and we competed hard.”
Darter played in the main singles draw, falling to her Kansas State opponent 6-4, 6-2.
“I played well in my K-State match and had some chances but just didn’t put it all together when I needed to,” Darter said. “It’s important to remember that whether you win or lose you have another match that you need to focus on.”
Darter played Wichita State’s Hsu, with a 6-2, 6-4 decision, and with her win she moved on to the consolation round on Day 3.
The past three years at the ITA, Darter had close matches but usually didn’t come out on top.
“This was a big deal for me,” Darter said. “It was really exciting to get to play a match and win it again a school like Wichita State, knowing they’re a solid team, and I’ve had difficulties getting around them in the past.”
Darter was the only Bear to compete on the final day, falling to her opponent from Oklahoma, junior Jasmine Asghar in a 7-6 (3), 6-2 match in the singles consolation bracket.
“I came out of this tournament with more losses than wins; I felt like it was one of my best tournaments in a while,” Darter said. “I got the chance to play some big hitters who pushed me, and I had a lot of fun.”
Weber said she felt Darter had a very good win over Wichita State and played strongly against one of Oklahoma’s top players.
“Overall, playing this high quality of matches are what we need to be ready for spring,” Weber said.
The Bears play next at home, hosting the Missouri State Fall Invitational, Oct. 26-28.