Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb reached a milestone Tuesday at Jefferson City.
The Bruins defeated the Jays 9-0 for Loeb’s 400th tennis win in his 15th year in coaching.
Rock Bridge didn’t lose a set in improving to 9-1.
Whitney Reys and Karla Kruse won 6-0, 6-0, and Ashley Miles beat Brianna Russel 6-1, 6-0. Sarah Seltsam won the final singles match 6-0, 6-1.
Hickey and Reys won in No. 1 doubles 6-0, 7-5. Kruse and Miles won 6-1, 6-0 and Smarr and Seltsam won 6-0, 6-0.
Building a legacy
Loeb began coaching in the spring of 1989 at Hickman, where he went 120-41. He became coach at Rock Bridge in the fall of 1994 and has a record of 280-52 with the Bruins.
Loeb never has set a goal on winning matches; he wants to build relationships and try to help the players.
“We set team goals,” Loeb said. “Whatever we can do as a team is more important, it’s a reflection of what the kids put into it. I try to learn things each year to help them, not only in tennis but also in life, in building self-esteem. I just try to help them have a great experience each year; that is the only goal. Wins are a factor, but not the most important factor.”
Loeb said that individual achievements are important, but they don’t compare with building relationships and sharing experiences.
“The most rewarding aspect is the interaction with wonderful kids, whether we win or not,” Loeb said. “I’ve been able to spend time in a sporting environment with great kids. Winning is a bonus, but I enjoy just being involved and building relationships.”
There are several teams that are easy for Loeb to remember, including the three state champions he has coached; the 1994 boys at Hickman and the 1999 and 2002 girls at Rock Bridge.
Hickman lost to St. Joseph’s Central during the 1994 season, but rebounded to defeat it 5-3 in the state semifinals and won the title in the last finals played at the Lake of the Ozarks before they moved to Springfield.
“That was nice because it was played close to home,” Loeb said. “I have great memories of those boys, not only as players but as individuals.”
The 1999 state championship match between the Bruins and St. Joseph’s Academy is the greatest dual match in Missouri high school tennis history in Loeb’s opinion. The Bruins were down 4-1 and were facing a third set in the No. 6 singles match and needed to sweep the doubles.
Rock Bridge avoided three state championship points in sweeping the doubles and winning the title. All three doubles matches went three sets.
“St. Joseph’s Academy had the best girl in high school tennis history, Kiki Stastny,” Loeb said. “She hit a shot that should’ve been a winner but
Cheryl Hickey made a great save to keep us alive.”
Last season the Bruins lost to St. Joseph’s 5-4 in the Great 8 Tournament and then returned the favor in the state tournament, winning 5-4.
Loeb remembers the way Kruse matured over the course of the year to help the Bruins win the state title.
“Karla Kruse was a freshman last year and early on she was so nervous,” Loeb said. “But by the state tournament, she was so calm and relaxed.”
Loeb enjoys coaching and hopes to continue for a long time. He doesn’t have a goal on the number of matches he hopes to win and gives credit for his success to the players he has coached.
“It all starts with having good players who are willing to get better,” Loeb said. “I do my best to help them, but you must have talented kids in order to be successful. I’ve helped kids by teaching them to be successful in life, but without great kids that would be hard to do.”