Behind the Scenes with Nina Pantic



Jan. 30, 2013

Former Mizzou tennis player Nina Pantic, who is finishing up her master's degree at Missouri, will travel with the Tigers all year and give fans a behind the scenes glimpse into the team.

Missouri tennis arrived in Michighan to a winter wonderland filled with snow falling and fresh powder covering every surface, quite similar to an early scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The team participated in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 26-27.

The first match was against No. 31 South Carolina. Cierra Gaytan-Leach got the biggest win of the day by defeating No. 34 Jaklin Alawi in three sets. Elisha Gabb also got in one of her first resounding wins so far as a Tiger. But senior Maria Christensen succeeded in having the most dramatic win of the day despite finishing in two sets. Up a set and 4-1, she fell to the court only to walk it off and win the next game. She finally closed out the match, 6-1, 6-4. The match came down to the wire but the Gamecocks ended up getting away with a 4-3 win. The following morning, Missouri came back strong against Brown University. Sophomore Alex Clark sealed the 4-0 victory with a straight set win after an incredibly tight doubles point was won in a tiebreaker on court 1. All of the milk Alex has been drinking is paying off.

The latest addition to the Tigers is a collection of fancy camera equipment for capturing matches on video. The new high-tech gear includes a special contraption for securing the cameras onto fences and indoor tarp screens. There are two long, black rods for each camera and a squeaky miniature tennis ball that helps create an angle so more of the court is in view. The whole thing looks extremely ridiculous and excessive, but when put to use, works perfectly. Of course the actual camcorders have a personal vendetta against us and continuously shut down too soon or don't turn on at all.



After all the videotaping and tennis, we had to take a short evening flight out of Detroit. Since we arrived at the airport on "Sasha time"; (which is two to four hours ahead of schedule) everyone had lots of time to lounge around and seek out entertainment. Much of the time was spent watching a video replay of Christensen's madness-filled win against the Gamecocks. A good portion was also spent watching a blizzard completely cover the runways.

After worrying that the flight would be delayed or cancelled, we ended up with mixed feelings about flying through a blizzard. The pilot kindly walked us through all of the deicing steps that had to take place for a safe takeoff, but a few of us were still concerned. Some sent goodbye texts to family and friends while Assistant Coach Jason Potthoff tried to make light of the situation with numerous jokes. The plane was sprayed with green slime that looked very similar to the goo used at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, and the deicing machine was so legit it could possibly have been equipped to explore Mars.

Ironically, some passengers had a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of an asteroid moving parallel with the plane midway through the flight, and junior Rachel Stuhlmann said it changed her life. Despite the ominous weather and the unusual flight, we made it home alive to 70-degree weather.

After living through camera problems and hazardous snowstorms, the Tigers will be back on court this weekend in Akron, Ohio, to play against Akron on Feb. 1 and Princeton on Feb. 2. Go Tigers!

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