Rock Bridge tennis dominant in sweep of Hickman; Kewpie newcomers show promise

Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 10:54 p.m. CDT
Hickman sophomore Sam Pottipadu returns the ball to Rock Bridge freshman Rohit Rao on Thursday at Cosmo-Bethel Park. Rao won the match.

COLUMBIA — While Hickman High School boys tennis players couldn’t help but constantly slouch their shoulders and hang their heads, the Rock Bridge High School Bruins couldn’t help but wear smiles and give high five.

The domination continued.

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Rock Bridge Bruins vs. Parkway Central and Lafayette-Wildwood

Hickman Kewpies vs. Parkway Central and Lafayette-Wildwood

WHEN: Saturday

WHERE: St. Louis

Rock Bridge boys tennis completed a sweep over Hickman at Cosmo-Bethel Park on Thursday, 9-0. The last time the Kewpies beat the Bruins in tennis was in 2000, Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said.

But with only one senior in his singles roster, Hickman head coach Andrew Materer is happy with the progress his young players are making and how they played.

"No surprises today," Materer said. "It’s tough to come out here with 66 home wins in a row. I think we were a little intimidated at first but then I thought we settled down and got a lot out of it. But we’re playing the best team in the state, it will only help us get better."

Materer is happy with the improvements his players have made, making special note for sophomore Sam Pottipadu and his work ethic.

"He has an incredible passion for the game," Materer said. "He wants to play five hours a day. He’s a super fierce, intense competitor. He really has passion for the game, which is really important."

Pottipadu is going to be a key part in Hickman’s next home match against Jefferson City, and Pottipadu caught some attention from Loeb on Thursday as well, Materer said.

"He’s a guy that competes really hard," Loeb said. "I like the way he competes. I think he’s good. I thought (Pottipadu) was very formidable and our guy had to rise to the occasion and he did."

Pottipadu was the highlight for Hickman on Thursday. He lost in singles against Rohit Rao 6-2 and 6-2, but he was the only Kewpie to win four games.

He also was in the No. 2 doubles match with Daniel Shyu. The two had the best results for Hickman, even with only having played together once before. They lost 7-5 and 6-2.

The improvements are impressing coaches considering that this is Pottipadu’s first year on the team. Thursday was only his third high school match.

"I just played in the summer for fun, sometimes tournaments," Pottipadu said. "I never was on an official team."

The Kewpies were impressed with the play of No. 1 and 2 singles players Ford Zitsch and Jack Fay on Rock Bridge.

"Unbeleiveable," Materer said about Zitsch and Fay. "The pace that (Zitsch) hits the ball, but he also has touch. They’re seniors, they’re strong and they also have a lot of touch. Just a wealth of experience. They’re professional about everything they do."

"I found myself laughing at some of the shots they hit because it’s just so good."

No. 1 singles Ford Zitsch beat Hickman's No. 1 Junyi Wu. Both Zitsch and Loeb noticed a lot of potential in the freshman.

"He’s a very talented kid," Zitsch said. "He’s got really good timing on his forehand. He could be a really good player, but he’s got to stick with it and really put in the work."

Loeb agreed.

"He’s got a good head about it. He’s already good, I think he’s just going to get better."

The Bruins (2-0) and Kewpies (2-1) both have doubleheaders Saturday against Parkway Central and Lafayette-Wildwood in St. Louis. 

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