COLUMBIA — The pieces all seem to be falling in the right places for the Rock Bridge boys tennis team.
The Bruins beat Marquette 9-0 on Wednesday at Bethel Park to improve to 15-0 this season. With the victory, Rock Bridge has won 41 straight games dating back to last season. But Bruins coach Ben Loeb said his team is not thinking about the streak. He said the main goal is to repeat as state champions.
“I kind of lose track of it quite frankly,” Loeb said. “I think it’s something to be proud of, but more so than that, our biggest goal is to be the first team in 40 years to defend its title as a public school.”
Sophomore Aaron Skinner won the No. 1 singles match for Rock Bridge, defeating Marquette's Anthony Becker 6-2, 6-1 . Skinner, who normally plays No. 2 singles, said he loves tougher competition.
“A lot of teams, there is huge drop off (between their top two players),” Skinner said. “One is definitely the better match. It’s a lot more fun when you have to work hard in order to win.”
During Skinner’s match, all of the little things seemed to go his way. He made the perfect shots when the score was close, and a few balls that would’ve been called out, his opponent played into the net.
Skinner is one of three players who played on last year’s varsity that has never tasted a team defeat. He said he thinks there is something truly special about this team.
“I think we’re definitely better this year than we were last year,” Skinner said. “Me and Ford are dominating at one at two. We’re really deep this year. I think we’re going to win it again.”
Skinner’s doubles partner, junior Blake Buchert, who won at No. 3 singles, said he isn’t sure if this year’s team is better, and he doesn’t know if he will ever know.
“We are more talented certainly,” Buchert said. “I think we’re better at the top than we’ve ever been. I think we’ll be good at depth and up at the top.”
When the season started, the team was concerned that lack of experience would be a problem. Buchert said high school experience isn’t as important in tennis as it is in other sports.
“The thing about the disadvantages are that there really is none,” Buchert said. “We play so many tournaments over the summer. These guys are coming in and aren’t nervous, they aren’t scared. It’s just another match. Our advantage is that we don’t have a disadvantage. When I look out there, I don’t see much of a problem for our team.”
Buchert said strategy is another one of the Bruins' strong points. He said the team is full of smart players, and they are often able to outthink their opponents on the court.
“Overall, we have been working hard,” Loeb said. “Sometimes some of them might not necessarily practice with the intensity level they need to on a consistent basis. All in all, I’d say they’ve done a very good job of making a really good sound effort in practice and going about it the right way.”
The Bruins play next on Saturday at the Tournament of Champions in St. Louis.