COLUMBIA – As the No. 2 singles player for Rock Bridge tennis, senior Jack Fay does not have the power or finesse that No. 1 Ford Zitsch has. But Fay has the stamina to make up for it, and then some.
Under the 85-degree sun Saturday, Fay had dug himself into a deep hole in his singles match against Clayton High School in the North Central Missouri Invitational at Bethel Park. He lost the first set and started the second set down 0-3 and in danger of losing the match.
But he came back to win 5-7, 6-3, (10-4), and Rock Bridge won 8-3.
“I was a little disappointed with the first set,” Fay said. “It took me a while kind of to get into the match. Then I got down to 0-3 in the second set and I was just making way too many errors.”
But Fay is known as a "grinder" – a player who doesn’t quit. Opposed to Zitsch's style of play, using powerful serves to eliminate opponents quickly, Fay uses a lot of volleys to tire out his opponents.
“He’s definitely a grinder,” Zitsch said. “He’s not going to bust you off the court, and he’s going to make you earn everything you get, and he’s going to run down a lot of balls."
“He plays an athletic game, but overall he grinds down his opponents, and that’s what he did today.”
Fay, constantly running and jumping back and forth and up and down to extend volleys, rallied back to win the second set 6-3 and then completed the comeback by winning the time-saving, first-to-10 points tiebreaker, 10-4.
“I just decided to try and keep everything in play because I knew he was starting to break down physically,” Fay said. “So I just did a good job wearing him out I think. That’s really the only thing that got me through the match – just the fact that I was able to wear him out.
“In the end it was just a grind.”
Fay’s hard-fought comeback got the attention of his coach and teammates.
“I was pleased with Jack’s effort to fight back,” Zitsch said. “He’s always known to never give up and to always push himself, and he did a great job of that today. His opponent was pretty good. He knew going in that it was going to be a tough match for him.”
Unlike Zitsch who has been Rock Bridge’s No. 1 player since he was a freshman, Fay started on junior varsity four seasons ago. But much like his strategy on the court on Saturday, Fay worked hard and moved his way up.
“He’s been a great teammate, and he’s without any doubt he’s probably the hardest worker on the team,” Zitsch said, who has been teammates with Fay for four years. “He’s playing a really big part on the team, and his hard work and work ethic got him there.”
The Bruins beat Clayton, 8-3 which coach Ben Loeb hopes will also help Rock Bridge in the coming weeks.
“We beat a really good team today,” Loeb said. “We needed the type of duel we played against Edwardsville. We needed the one we played against this one today. Hopefully it helps us prepare for what’s coming ahead in the postseason.
The Bruins extended their home-court win streak to 78 matches, and they are 13-0 this season. Rock Bridge will begin the Class 2, District 9 tournament against the winner of Camdenton and Smith-Cotton at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
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