Rock Bridge tennis team wins with new faces

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 11:55 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 14, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge boys tennis team is still flawless after a 9-0 victory against Quincy (Ill.) on Tuesday at Bethel Park.

The Bruins did not play their top five varsity players to give other players a chance to see some action. It was the first varsity game for a lot of players.

Senior Phillip Atwood, who normally plays No. 6 singles, played No. 1 singles. Atwood defeated his opponent 6-0, 6-2. Atwood said playing at No. 1 feels good for his pride, but he recognizes that it’s just a number.

“I thought it was good to get the chance to, since I’m a senior,” Atwood said. “It is kind of just like a label. I judge matches more by how competitive they are. I’m more happy playing sixth just as long as I’m playing someone who’s better.”

Atwood is playing his first full season on varsity, after three years as a junior varsity player. Atwood said it is important to remember that whether you play varsity or not, you have to respect the game.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people get too caught up on playing in a varsity match,” Atwood said. “It’s really just you and another tennis player out there. It comes down to whether you can make the shot or not.”

It was also the first varsity singles match for sophomore Joe LaRose, who cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 2 singles.

“It feels great,” LaRose said. “It’s my first time, and I wasn’t really that nervous surprisingly. It feels good to contribute something to the team.”

Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said he has been blessed to coach the teams he has. He said one of his main challenges the past couple of years is getting everyone playing time.

“It’s great to have that depth,” Loeb said. “For them, it presents some challenges because here on our team, some of them are junior varsity, while on another team they might be varsity. Most of them realize they’re going to get their chances when I can put them in there.”

The Bruins are now 6-0 this season and 54-0 in matches. Loeb said he cannot remember having a team that did not drop a match in their first six duals. The 9-0 win over parkway Central on Saturday is the dual that Loeb said amazed him the most.

“It’s incredible,” Loeb said. “That Parkway Central dual meet should give our guys a lot of confidence. I hope that gives some of our younger kids confidence that they can win against a quality team like Parkway Central, who I’m convinced is going to be a team to be reckoned with.”

The top five varsity players did not have the day off completely. Other than Sam Johnson, who was home with the flu, the other four players faced each other in what Loeb called the "Davis Cup."

“They’re intensity level is a little bit lower today, but I want them to create pretty good competition for themselves,” Loeb said.

The state-winning doubles combination of Blake Buchert and Aaron Skinner defeated Ford Zitsch and Jimmy Hunter to earn some bragging rights over their teammates.

The Bruins play next on Friday in the Columbia Duals at Bethel Park.

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