COLUMBIA — There isn’t much about the courts at Bethel Park that would make them stand out among any other set of high school tennis courts. With a few sneaker marks here and there and some weathered paint, they seem pretty standard.
But the Bruins protect these courts with passion. With Thursday’s win against Glendale, the Bruins now have 70 consecutive home wins at Bethel, a streak dating back to 2007.
“Wow. Isn’t that something?” Bruins coach Ben Loeb said with a smile when he realized the streak has reached 70.
“I think the home win streak is more a sense of pride than anything else — pride in the tradition of our program more than anything.”
The streak is even more special because it breaks the Bruins' previous record from 2006, when Rock Bridge had a home winning streak of 66 matches. When that streak was broken, Loeb said, he never thought anything like it would happen again.
“It’s amazing,” Loeb said. “I can’t believe it. The odds of it being able to happen again would be somewhere between slim and none.”
It’s a streak the players are proud of, too.
“Oh, yeah (it’s important),” said senior Ford Zitsch, who has never lost a team match at Bethel. “It’s great.”
Loeb has had the luxury of having players like Zitsch on his team. But Loeb credits pride and tradition as the fuel that has kept the streak going.
“To be a part of something that’s successful, and to want to be a part of that and see continued success,” Loeb said. “I think that’s a big part of it. Fortunately we’ve had enough guys that really value it to put the time and effort into it to continue the tradition.”
It would be easy to let up now, especially after a 9-0 win. But Loeb shows no signs of satisfaction. He had an eye on every court Thursday, taking detailed notes and looking for ways to improve.
Loeb says improvement will be needed the next time Rock Bridge meets Rockhurst, a team that Rock Bridge played earlier this season in a close match that was canceled because of rain. Rock Bridge will almost surely run into Rockhurst again late in the postseason in a bid to three-peat as state champions.
“We know from playing Rockhurst at the beginning of the season that they’re really good and that it’s going to be really tough,” Loeb said. “So we have to work at getting better."
The players understand the message.
“You have to be picky if you want to get better,” said Zitsch, who showed frustration on the court after losing one game in his 8-1 victory.
The courts at Bethel are safe for Thursday night. The Bruins will try to continue protecting it at this weekend's Mid Missouri Tennis Tournament.
Eight teams will participate in the three-round event that starts at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Bethel for Rock Bridge. Some matches will be played at Cosmopolitan Park. The second round will at 2:30 p.m. Friday and the last round starts at 9 a.m. Saturday.