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Rock Bridge boys tennis team advances to state tournament

Saturday, May 21, 2011 | 6:12 p.m. CDT; updated 6:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 21, 2011

COLUMBIA — Coming into the weekend, the only thing that looked like it could stop the Rock Bridge boys tennis team was the weather. And when the sun came out Saturday at Cosmo-Bethel Park, Rock Bridge came out swinging.

Rock Bridge cruised through both its Class 2 sectional semifinal and sectional final matches to earn its 65th consecutive home court victory and 10th consecutive trip to the state tournament.

“It’s been an amazing run,” Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said.

After dominating Glendale 5-0 in its morning match, Rock Bridge knocked off Springfield Central 5-0 in the afternoon.

The Bruins dropped only two sets the entire day. Both sets were lost by standout No. 1 singles player, junior Ford Zitsch.

Zitsch split the first two sets in both of his matches, but by the time his third sets started, his teammates had already clinched each team match.

“Ford had two tough matches," said senior Jimmy Hunter, Rock Bridge’s No. 2 singles player, "and I was glad I was able to come away with some big points in both my matches.”

Against Springfield Central, Hunter won a back-and-forth tiebreaker to win the first set 7-6 (5), and his 6-3 second-set victory clinched Rock Bridge’s spot in the final four.

“It’s a huge honor to go to state a fourth time and hopefully keep the run going,” said Hunter, who was to graduate shortly after the afternoon matches were over. The ceremony was at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Loeb said expectations have been “very high” all year.

“Our goal is to win the state title,” he said.

Hunter echoed his coach’s comments about trying to become the first public school team to defend its state title in 42 years.

“Winning state is a very special accomplishment on its own," Hunter said, "but it definitely adds on to it a little bit."

To be the first public school to win back-to-back championships since 1969, Rock Bridge will have to defeat Rockhurst, which they play in the semifinals on Thursday morning at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.

“We want to make history and do it,” Loeb said.


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