Bruins’ rally saves streak

Thursday, April 27, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:04 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

When two undefeated teams face each other, strange things can happen.

Surveying the top four courts at Bethel Park on Wednesday, Rock Bridge tennis coach Ben Loeb saw a sight he hadn’t seen this year. All four Bruins were down a set against Blue Valley North.

“Oh boy, we’ve got issues,” he said quietly.

Not only did it look like Rock Bridge might lose for the first time this season, it looked like it might be the end of its undefeated record at Bethel Park, a streak which stood at 56 wins and dates back to 2002.

Turns out the streak wasn’t quite ready to go quietly. The Bruins made it 57 by coming back to win 6-3, improving to 14-0 on the season.

It was the latest in a string of close matches that Rock Bridge has managed to win recently, first against Thomas Jefferson on April 14 and then against Blue Springs South at last weekend’s Mid-Missouri Invitational. Loeb said it sometimes defies explanation.

“All of a sudden, it’s like the streak comes out and says, ‘Not here, not now,’ and we find a way to win,” he said.

Although Rock Bridge lost the No. 1, 3 and 4 singles matches on Wednesday, senior Daniel Lopez at No. 2 helped keep the Bruins afloat by winning a marathon match against Hank Lee 4-6, 6-4, 12-10.

Losing the first set was a new experience for the undefeated Lopez. He hadn’t been down a set all season. After winning his second set, he got off to a slow start in the tiebreaker and was behind 8-4.

Because games are played simultaneously, Lopez wasn’t sure what the other scores were at that point. But he said he kind of got the idea it was a big one.

“I noticed that all the courts around me were clearing up, that everything was dead quiet,” he said.

That is, until the cheering started.

With the crowd watching intently, Lopez won five consecutive points for a match point at 9-8. Lee refused to go quietly also, though, stretching the score to 10-10 before Lopez finally won two in a row for the match. The generally sanguine Lopez, dropped to his knees afterwards.

“I never count Daniel Lopez out,” Loeb said.

Senior Scott Hawf at No. 5 and sophomore Jay Kinderknecht at No. 6 also won their matches to remain undefeated in singles this season. Still, given the strength of Blue Valley North’s top four players, going into the doubles tied 3-3 wasn’t exactly comforting.

The streak remained stubborn, though. The Bruins won all three doubles points, including another tiebreaker win at No. 1 by Lopez and teammate Ryan Olson 6-1, 4-6, 11-9.

“No matter how good anyone is, you’re not obligated to lose to them,” Lopez said.

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