Rock Bridge wins its first boys tennis state title

Friday, May 23, 2008 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rock Bridge boys tennis coach Ben Loeb said it was like something he would expect to see on ESPN’s Classic channel.

“The intensity was fantastic," Loeb said by phone. “It was just such a great match.”

When it was done, the Bruins had won their first boys tennis state championship, defeating highly favored Rockhurst 5-4 on Thursday at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, Mo.

A back-and-forth match kept the suspense high until the end.

Rock Bridge’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles players fell to Rockhurst, which has won the state title 11 of the past 12 years, according to Loeb. But No. 3 singles player Eemaun Latifi and No. 4 player Blake Buchert rallied for Rock Bridge after trailing early in their matches.

Latifi beat Rockhurst’s Sam Schultz 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, then Buchert beat Rockhurst’s Joe Paris 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The Bruins’ Aaron Skinner won the No. 5 singles match, but Rockhurst prevailed in the No. 6 match to leave the match tied at 3.

Doubles play decided the match with Bruins’ No. 1 singles player Jay Kinderknecht teaming with Aron Franck to win the No. 1 doubles match 6-1, 6-0 to put Rock Bridge ahead.

The No. 2 doubles match went to Rockhurst, leaving the outcome dependent on the No. 3 doubles match.

Buchert and Skinner came through, beating Rockhurst’s Ryan Xiao and Thomas O’Neill, 7-5, 6-3.

“We had to play well just to get to this point,” Loeb said. ”When we won, it was just pure euphoria. It was just as exciting as the Stanley Cup. The state championship is our Super Bowl.”

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