Sports

Resurrected Tennis Bears In NCAA's

SPRINGFIELD, Mo--Missouri State's tennis team is in Oxford, Mississippi, prepping for Friday's NCAA Tournament match against Ole Miss.

In our Bear Nation report,  the NCAA invitation is the culmination of rebuilding process.

KOLR 10's Megan Rice has more on this resurgent program.    

Restarting an athletic program is not easy. 

"So happy for them and so proud of them for what they've been able to accomplish because no one thought that they could do this. They believed it and that's why they got here," said coach Mallory Weber. 

Missouri State cut both men's and women's tennis in 2006. The women were reinstated by the 2015 season. And in just their fourth season back, the Bears won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

"It's been unreal. We defeated the odds. We beat the number one seed in the conference. We were not picked to win and we made it," said Fati Khamissi. 

"For us to come from not having a program to four years later being conference champions, that was certainly a goal and something we were striving for but I don't know if any of us thought it would happen this soon. For it to happen only four years in is absolutely a testimate to their hard work," said coach Weber. 

Improbable, unlikely, or even impossible. You can call it whatever you like. But the fact is ... the Bears are going to the NCAA tournament for just the second time in program history. 

"I've had about 40 moments where it's hit me, it's like woah is this happening. I think a friend on the swim team was like 'woah you were one of the first players right. Now you get a championship in four years.' Just little moments like that, it just keeps getting cooler," said Abbey Belote.

Not only did the Bears shock the Valley, but also one Missouri State player is adding to a family legacy. Ellie Burger is Jake's little sister. 

"I remember sitting in my living room whenever Jake was a freshman at Missouri State and watching his selection show and last year watching the selection show with his team too. To be able to have the same experience my freshman year, he won a tournament his freshman year, I won a tournament my freshman year, and to go to a regional and a selection show, is pretty indescriable," said Ellie Burger. 

Another Burger and another NCAA watch party. Where this time Bears tennis will take on 5 seed Ole Miss at 3:00 p.m. Friday. 

"They are a top SEC team, so that in and of it's self is a challenge," said coach Weber. 

"Hey, I mean, we have no pressure. Any extra tennis here for me, is just the best, cause I should be done, and I'm not. So anything extra is just the coolest for the whole team, I think," said Belote.

In Springfield, Megan Rice, KOLR 10 Sports, Ozarks First. 


 


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