Rock Bridge tennis coach Ben Loeb has repeatedly said the state tennis tournament goes through Joplin. If that’s the case, the Bruins have to like their chances of making a run at a third consecutive championship.
Rock Bridge defeated Joplin 9-0 on Friday, and also swept Kickapoo 9-0 later in the afternoon in the Columbia Quad Duals. Joplin’s district hosts the state sectional the Bruins could play in this year, setting up a potential rematch later this season.
“I don’t remember a time that I haven’t played Joplin at sectionals, playing for Rock Bridge,” Bruins junior Karla Kruse said. “I think that maybe it will indicate what might happen later down the road. In the back of our minds we’re going to have to remember how they played and how the girls hit the ball, and then hopefully get a (sectional) win out of it.”
The Bruins had few problems picking up their seventh and eighth wins of the year, but Loeb said he wants his team to strive for more consistency.
“Overall I think we played well, I think in a few spots we showed weakness at times, but we rallied and came back to win,” Loeb said. “To our girls credit they did battle back and get the outcome we wanted.”
Kirsten Stople found some trouble at No. 2 singles against Joplin’s Hanna Lazenby. Down a set, Stople faced a match point at 4-5 in the second set before winning the game. She won the next two, and also pulled out the tiebreaker for a 5-7, 7-5 (10-5) victory.
“Kirsten, that was big the way she came back to win it,” Loeb said. “This was a really good match to test her willingness to fight through adversity, and I thought she played great down the stretch in that match.”
Stople and Whitney Reys were involved in another tight match at No. 1 doubles against Kickapoo. They lost the first set 6-7 (3-7), took the second set 6-3, and prevailed 10-6 in the tiebreaker. The rest of the Bruins won in straight sets.
Kruse, one of Rock Bridge’s most consistent contributors, was glad to be back on the court after missing a match last week. She continues to receive treatment for a right ankle injury, but said she felt good playing.
“The ankle was good,” Kruse said. “I didn’t have any problem, so hopefully that will continue. I thought personally I played very well today. I felt really strong in both of the dual meets, and as a team we looked really good.”
Kruse won 6-1, 6-3 against Joplin and 6-0, 6-0 against Kickapoo at No. 4 singles. Loeb said he was pleased with the intensity Kruse, and teammate Sarah Seltsam showed.
“I really like the way Karla Kruse and Sarah Seltsam go about it,” he said. “The way they play with that quiet confidence, but they’re into it, they’re competitive; they want to do well on every single point. I think that’s a trademark we need to have.”