This time Rock Bridge couldn’t match St. Joseph’s Academy’s abundance of talent.
Despite making it to the finals of the Great 8 Tennis Tournament for the first time on Saturday, the Bruins fell to St. Joe’s 8-1 once they got there.
Not much came easily for the Bruins against the skilled Angels.
“They’re very deep; there are people who challenge them, but they’re pretty clearly the best of their sectional,” Rock Bridge’s Kara Hickey said.
The pairing for the finals match was no surprise to those familiar with the teams. For the last four years, Rock Bridge and St. Joe’s have met in the state final, each claiming two titles. The Angels and Bruins have played six consecutive matches ending in 5-4 scores with Rock Bridge winning two.
On Saturday, the Angels (4-0) started quickly, winning all three matches in doubles play at Wilson’s Beach and Tennis Club.
The Angels were equally strong in the singles matches at Bethel Park.
Hickey, a junior and the Bruins’ No. 1 player, was the only Bruin to win, beating Casey Miller 6-0, 6-1 in what Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb called a wonderful match.
The Angels talent didn’t surprise anyone, especially Loeb.
“They have an outstanding team,” he said. “We knew they were very good, and they played a great tournament like they’ve done many times before here at the Great 8.”
The Bruins’ performance didn’t discourage Loeb, though.
“I thought our team played well,” he said. “We were just up against a great opponent today and they just outplayed us.”
Loeb singled out some of the Angels for their strong play.
“Margaret Junker played a great match in singles, and Shannon Ward played real well at No. 4,” Loeb said.
Ward defeated Karla Kruse 6-4, 6-3 but still complimented Kruse’s play.
The No. 6 singles could have gone either way according to Loeb. The Bruins’ Sarah Seltsam lost to the Angels’ Katie Fitzgerald 6-7, 6-2, 16-14 in a match that invigorated the crowd.
Each of the past five years that St. Joe’s has won the Great 8, it has won the state title. Ward, though, was hesitant to say the trend would definitely continue.
“These matches are a nice heads up for state, but we beat Rock Bridge last year here (placing second) and we lost to them in state,” Ward said.
Despite losing to a rival, Loeb stayed upbeat about the Bruins (4-1), who beat Pembroke Hill 5-4 in the semifinals.
“I still think we have a fine team, and that if we can continue to work at things and make progress, you never know,” Loeb said. “Maybe we can have good things happen down the road.”
Hickman (4-4) defeated Clayton 5-2 in a shortened match to earn seventh in the tournament. Hickman lost to St. Joe’s earlier in the tournament 9-0.