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Rock Bridge boys tennis team repeats as state champions

Thursday, May 26, 2011 | 10:28 p.m. CDT; updated 11:03 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 26, 2011

The members of the Rock Bridge boys tennis team can relax — for a few hours at least.

After capturing the Class 2 boys team title Thursday night, some team members will compete in the individual singles and doubles state tournament on Friday morning. Following the 5-2 victory against Lafayette in Springfield, the rest of the players had to return home to go to school Friday morning.

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The five players competing Friday and senior Amit Patel, who graduated last week, enjoyed each others company while eating takeout pizza and subs and playing video games at the team's hotel Thursday night, senior Jimmy Hunter said by phone.

Hunter said there was still work to do Friday but that the team win was a bigger deal. The Bruins became the first public school to successfully defend a state tennis title since 1969, according to Bruins coach Ben Loeb.

"It's unbelievable," Loeb said by phone of the repeat. "It's a big thrill for our team to win the state title."

After dropping matches at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, the Bruins won the rest of the singles matches handily and scored a victory at No. 3 doubles to clinch the title.

"Our depth was critical," Loeb said.

Lafayette proved tough at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, but the semifinal match against Rockhurst was a more intense team match, according to senior Joe LaRose, who is Hunter's doubles partner.

Rock Bridge defeated Rockhurst 5-3 after clinching victories at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. The teams split the singles matches 3-3, with three matches going three sets.

Loeb said the match was "so intense" but the team "responded well to the challenge."

LaRose said the team felt as if they were the better and deeper team in the final and was "really elated" after beating Rockhurst.

"We're soaking it in," he said.

The doubles teams of Hunter and LaRose and Daniel Liu and Alex Jones are both trying to become the third-straight doubles team from Rock Bridge to win the individual doubles title.

Junior Ford Zitsch is looking to improve on his third-place finish in last year singles tournament.

"Tomorrow, when it comes around, we'll be ready," Hunter said.


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