Opinions differ as to what characterizes a rivalry. Some say it’s proximity. Others say it is the history between the teams. Still others say it is an increase in intensity.
For the two major Columbia high schools, separated by just more than four miles, playing one another is always an anticipated matchup.
“There’s a familiarity since we are just across town,” Hickman tennis coach Jerry Price said. “It’s a rivalry being that you just bring a little more to the court.”
However, this rivalry has been one-sided for the past seven years, with the Bruins dominating the Kewpies each season. Tuesday was no different, as visiting Rock Bridge defeated Hickman for the second time this season. The 8-1 win improved the Bruins’ record to 19-3.
Although the two teams had been looking forward to Tuesday’s match for weeks, the matchup has lost a little of its excitement because of the Bruins’ continued domination.
“It’s always a rivalry no matter what,” Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said. “I think it becomes a bigger rivalry when the competition is better.”
The recent history between the two teams has also begun to affect the Kewpies mentality each time they prepare to face the Bruins. For some of the girls, it is hard to ignore the fact that no Hickman girls’ tennis team has beaten Rock Bridge since 1998.
“I get scared,” said senior Jessica Curry when talking about playing the Bruins. “They’ve really always beaten me pretty easily. I don’t like playing them ever.”
Though they were overmatched, the defeat didn’t stop the Kewpies from enjoying the end-of-the-season matchup. Since most of the girls know each other, meeting one another on the court is an opportunity to have some competitive fun.
“I’d call it a friendly rivalry,” Price said. “These kids have grown up together. They have gone to (grade) school together. They’ve played on sports teams together.”
The matchup also attracts more fans than most regular-season matches. Parents, friends and members of the community filled the five rows of metal bleachers at the Hickman courts.
The girls also brought a little more energy and enthusiasm to the match.
“Everyone plays their hearts out,” said Sarah Ginsburg, who recorded a win for the Bruins at No. 3 singles.
It was evident that the two teams have a mutual respect and enjoy a friendship with one another. Girls from both teams exchanged hugs and the latest gossip from around town. And coaches Price and Loeb spent much of the three hours talking with one another about the season and their girls.
“I have a lot of admiration for the girls on their team,” Loeb said. “They are good representatives of their school and our community.”
The final score of the match seemed to be an obscure detail by the end of the afternoon.
“It’s just always a lot of fun,” Rock Bridge sophomore Alissa Winner said.