After losing four of its top seven starters last year, the Rock Bridge tennis team will have an uncertain roster heading into its final season in the North Central Missouri Conference because the Bruins will become independent next season.
Although most of the starters will be determined after intrasquad match play in practice this month, coach Ben Loeb is confident that senior Jon-Eric Meyer will lead his singles team.
“It all starts with Meyer ... he’s our best player,” Loeb said. “I have a lot of confidence in him and look forward to him having a big season.”
Meyer, a four-year starter, has high expectations for himself as well.
“I’d like to make it back again to states this year,” Meyer said. “I want to finish near the top.”
Although it is too early to tell which freshmen will make a push for the varsity team, Loeb is looking forward to the play of sophomore Scott Hawf, who missed last season as he battled leukemia.
A strong group of juniors, including Justin Winner, Matt Dresner and Kyle Kinderknecht, should lead the rest of the starters.
Loeb said the juniors will have to perform well if the Bruins are to make the state final four for the third consecutive year.
“The road back to the final four will be a challenging one, but certainly I think we have the capability to get there if we play well and get better on the way,” Loeb said.
— Rick Metzroth
Rock Bridge baseball
Before Rock Bridge started practice Monday afternoon, coach Terry Whitney called his team into the dugout. He had a present to give them.
“He gave them a ball from last year’s state tournament,” assistant coach Ron Widbin said. “That’s where we want to end up, down the street at Simmons (Field).”
The Bruins return 10 seniors to a team that finished 16-6 last year, falling to Helias 7-4 in the district championship game.
One of those seniors is all-state catcher Scott Dunwoody, who has signed to play with Missouri. Dunwoody led the Bruins with a .518 batting average and 20 RBIs last season. “We lost to a team we had already beaten earlier in the season,” senior Scott Dunwoody said. “I thought we had a pretty good shot (at state) last season.”
Dunwoody, who had a 1.00 ERA for the Bruins his junior season, will also see action as a relief pitcher this year.
Chase Patton’s days of pulling double duty as a starting pitcher and infielder are over.
“We’re not even throwing him in the bullpen,” Widbin said.
Patton, who Gatorade named the Missouri Player of the Year as the Bruins’ quarterback in the fall, had tendonitis flare ups in his elbow and shoulder a year ago. With a football scholarship awaiting him at Missouri Patton said he did not want to risk injury to his arm.
Patton said he thought about running track to get in shape for collegiate football in the fall but that ultimately he enjoyed baseball too much.
“I don’t think I could not have played baseball,” Patton said. “I’ve played… since I was 5.”
— Trevor Taylor
In 2003, Hickman had a lackluster baseball season, but this year it knows there is one thing to do. Coach Kent Fewell wants to win it all.
The Kewpies started practice Monday and began what Fewell hopes will take the team to the state championship.
After an 11-10 record in 2003, Fewell said he has reasons to be excited about the season.
“Our strength is going to be the experience we have coming back,” Fewell said. “Last year we played a lot of younger kids, sophomores and juniors. We got a lot of good experience there and now they’re a year older and a year wiser, a year stronger and probably a year better.”
Fewell said he thinks Blake Tekotte, a junior center fielder, will have a major impact.
In 2003, Tekotte hit .306 and hit four home runs in 72 at-bats, the most for the Kewpies last season.Tekotte said he is excited about what his team could do this season.
“Looking at our schedule and looking at our pitching depth and our offense and the lineup, it looks like we can score runs and it looks like our pitchers can hold runs down,” Tekotte said. “Basically, we’re looking to win a lot of games.”
Fewell said he feels depth will be another of the Kewpies’ strengths. Fewell has 12 pitchers and two catchers, Justin Jackson and Nick Steponovich, he said could start on another team.
Fewell said competition in the infield is going to be especially tough.
“We have two to three guys at each position fighting for the spot,” Fewell said. “That’s going to make for good practices. That is going to make for good competition.
“Nobody’s going to be able to sit back and just take it easy cause there’s going to be somebody right behind them trying to get their job.”
— Charlie Slenker
Hickman track and field
The Kewpies spent the opening moments of the outdoor season inside. The 80 athletes who attended Hickman’s first practice clustered into the concession area outside the gym. The typical high school talking and giggling ensued, at least until coach Steve Luetjen walked through the door.
At the imposing sight of Luetjen’s large frame and shaved head, an immediate hush fell over the group.
Luetjen and his staff have a reputation for having high expectations, a reputation Luetjen reinforced in his first speech to his team.
“I care how you handle yourself on the track,” Luetjen told his team Monday. “But more than that I care how you act in the community and the classroom.”
Luetjen makes no apologies for his strict approach to coaching.
“I am going to be extremely rigid this year (regarding missing practice and misbehavior).” Luetjen said. “I have been relatively rigid in the past, but this year I will be more so.”
The season looks bright for Luetjen and Hickman. A number of standouts are returning to the Kewpies, including junior Kaela Rorvig, who holds school records in the triple jump and 400-meter dash. “I think this has potential to be the most talented group we’ve had in my 15 years,” Luetjen said. “But potential is a meaningless word. This is a long haul, not a sprint.”
— Sean McDonnell
Hickman girls soccer
Coach Sandy Paulsen is waiting for three of her offensive starters to show up for practice, but she is not worried.
Hickman held its first practice Monday.
Paulsen, in her 16th year as coach, laughed at the task ahead of her when asked where the team’s scoring would come from this season.
“We lost six starters from last season, two up front, two in the middle, and two in the back,” she said. “We’re going to have to see who’s going to fill in. I have quite a few kids coming back, however.”
Seniors Amy and Jodi Bolerjack and junior Megan McCabe did not attend the first practice because of their roles on the Hickman basketball team, which is in the midst of a state playoff run. Paulsen is not sure when she will get them back, but she said she does not worry about them being behind if they show up late.
“They’ll be in great shape,” she said. “They’ll have to pick it up a little bit to get back to game shape, distance shape, but they should be fine. Coach (Tonya) Mirts does a good job with them.”
Paulsen also said that her offense was important last year in helping out the defense.
“The defense was always there when we needed them, but the offense kept control of the ball quite a bit,” she said. “That does help.”
— Clinton Thomas
Rock Bridge boys golf
Although every year brings a fresh start, but Rock Bridge is beginning with an especially clean slate this season.
The Bruins held their first day of try-outs at L.A. Nickel Golf Course on Monday and new coach Doug Daniels spent most of the afternoon in a golf cart trying to catch a glimpse of his talent pool.
“Right now, I couldn’t even tell you most of their names,” Daniels said.
Several new golfers should join Daniels because the Bruins lost five seniors last year. Junior Nick Lefevre is one of the golfers that tried to claim a spot Monday.
Lefevre, who has played soccer but not golf for Rock Bridge, said he came out for the team to stay active.
“I just feel lazy if I don’t play a sport,” Lefevre said.
Junior Ross Hinshaw was a member of the Rock Bridge C team last year and was back Monday trying to move up.
Hinshaw said he has felt the effects of the offseason since he has returned to the links.
“I went to the driving range Thursday and Friday and you can tell you haven’t played in a while,” Hinshaw said.
Daniels said the cold temperatures and gusting winds the golfers experienced during their rounds probably had an effect on them and he would keep that in mind.
“I’m not going to hold a bad score on the first day against them,” Daniels said.
The Bruins’ first tournament is scheduled for March 31.
— Will Hall