COLUMBIA — Girls head tennis coach Ben Loeb is creating a dynasty at Rock Bridge High School.
Rock Bridge currently boasts a tennis program that has made the semifinals of the Class 2 Missouri State High School Activities Association tournament 13 times in the past 14 years. Last year, the team barely missed out on its third consecutive state title, finishing second to St. Joseph's Academy.
Rock Bridge will play its next match at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the Great 8 Tournament at Cosmo-Bethel Park.
Despite such an impressive track record, Loeb likes to keep his goals modest.
"I think winning our district, winning our sectional, and going back to the final four would be a very worthy goal," Loeb said. "If we get there, then we can adjust expectations and goals from there."
Loeb's attention seemed to be everywhere at once. With a full view of the four courts ahead of him, he saw each individual player's performance. He shouted out advice and encouragement to get the players motivated.
After a particular practice matchup between two players, he showered both the winner and loser with praise. Senior Sophi Farid said Loeb focuses more on the mental aspect of tennis than on playing techniques.
"Because the kids who come here to play, they already know how to play, they know how to hit, but they don't know how to work together as a team and that's what he focuses on," Farid said.
Rock Bridge's accomplishments since Loeb's arrival point to his success in that regard. When asked about their personal goals for the season, Farid, junior Phoebe Boeschen and senior Allison Baker all answered that they had no personal goals. Instead, they only want to win the state title.
"It's not just about you during the season, you have to rely on people and you have to look down at the other court to see how they're doing and not just about yourself," Boeschen said.
The return of experienced players, such as last season's top two players, No.1 Boeschen and No.2 Farid, will go a long way to helping them retain that honor.
"I think we have a very good group, I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can do," Loeb said. "I think we can have a very good season."
On Wednesday, Rock Bridge defeated Hickman High School 9-0 for their first victory of the season.