The last time the Rock Bridge boys’ tennis team played Hickman on April 6, the Bruins came away with the victory but had no answer for Hickman’s Latifi brothers. Freshman Eemaun Latifi and senior Omeed Latifi won both their singles matches and teamed up for a doubles win in the 6-3 loss.
On Tuesday, even the Latifis were unable to hold off the undefeated Bruins. Rock Bridge lost only one set, en route to a 9-0 victory at Hickman.
“We’ve been working real hard at practice and it paid off today,” said Rock Bridge senior Ryan Olson.
Going into the match, Hickman had the same mentality they’ve had all season. But after the loss Price was blunt.
“Just because they’re our crosstown rivals and they’re good, doesn’t mean we didn’t want to go out and win matches and play our best,” Price said. “They came prepared and played well top to bottom. It’s a difficult loss for our players because we’ve had such a successful season. But they dominated us.”
Olson, who had lost his last match against Eemaun Latifi in a tiebreaker, said he employed a different strategy this time around by trying to keep hitting to Eemaun’s backhand and coming to the net more.
“He’s such a good athlete, he’ll stay back there and he’ll rally with you forever,” Olson said.
It paid off. Olson won the rematch at No. 3 singles in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.
In a rematch against Omeed Latifi at No. 1 singles, sophomore Aron Franck took a 5-4 lead in the first set, but missed opportunities to close it out and lost 5-7. He came back to take the second 6-4. Things began to get a little heated in the tiebreaker after a disputed out-of-bounds call.
“In the past I’ve gotten frustrated with that stuff, so I just put it behind me,” Franck said.
After falling behind 3-4, he didn’t lose another point, winning the match 10-4.
Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said he was impressed with Franck’s ability to maintain his composure, especially having lost previously to the same opponent.
“He could have thought to himself, ‘Here we go again,’ but he didn’t,” Loeb said.
Struggling with matches, players for Hickman at times let their emotions get the better of them.
Hickman coach Jerry Price, who usually wears a grin regardless of the situation, was scowling after some of the incidents. Price said that there was no excuse for the behavior the team exhibited.
“We talked quite a bit about it tonight,” Price said. “Some of the players lost control. The level of behavior displayed was not at the level of respect I’d like to see. We talked before doubles; the message was very clear about the level of sportsmanship we expect to maintain.”