COLUMBIA — Westminster Academy boys tennis player Hunter Hughes hit a shot high in the air to his opponent, Rock Bridge junior Jacob Winton, at No. 4 singles on Saturday morning at Cosmo-Bethel Park.
Winton ran to the net, reached up and slammed the ball to win the match 6-2, 6-1. The normally quiet crowd cheered loudly.
"I saw the ball floating up at me and I saw it going to my forehand," Winton said. "I usually don’t take swinging volleys but I just threw it out there and went for it, and it felt really good that it went in."
The point capped off a strong weekend in singles for Winton in the Mid-Missouri Invitational. Winton defeated De Smet’s Grady Riley 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals on Friday morning and beat Lake Kinzel of Blue Springs South 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals on Saturday. Rock Bridge (10-1) defeated Westminster 7-2 in the championship on Saturday.
"My serve was working really well this weekend so I felt I was able to control points and that was the big thing," Winton said.
Last season, Winton sometimes played varsity at No. 6 singles. As a full-time varsity player this season, he has enjoyed the pressure of being able to contribute to the Bruins and play in matches that count.
"He has a lot of offense in his game and as long as he plays disciplined, he can play extremely well and he did that this weekend," Rock Bridge head coach Ben Loeb said.
Winton missed two matches early in the season because of a lower back injury. The injury caused a sharp pain that got worse when he played. When he returned to the court, he was cautious with the injury.
"I was a little nervous at first, but when I got on the court and warmed up it felt like it never happened," Winton said.
Winton’s first game back from the injury was a home loss against Edwardsville. The loss was a learning experience for the Bruins, Winton said.
"We all know we need to get better at doubles and that’s where we lost it last Friday," Winton said.
Rock Bridge beat Westminster in five of the six singles matches. Alex Jones, Rohit Rao, Raymond Majors and Harry Bozoian picked up singles wins along with Winton.
The Bruins won two of the three doubles including Winton winning with Rao at No. 2 doubles 8-6. Majors and Bozoian won at No. 3 doubles 8-3.