A growing rivalry between two powerhouse tennis programs appears destined to materialize once again in the state championship.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Rockhurst and Columbia Rock Bridge will both be part of the four-team team Missouri Class 2 state tennis championship Thursday at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. Each needs one victory to rekindle their rivalry, and they are the favorites.
Unbeaten Rockhurst will face will face Christian Brothers College of St. Louis, 17-5, in one semifinal; and Rock Bridge, 17-1, will meet Parkway Central of Chesterfield, a team it defeated 9-0 earlier this season, in the other.
Rock Bridge edged Rockhurst in the Class 2 state championship last season — a match the Hawklets certainly haven't forgotten.
“There's some history there,” Rockhurst coach Zach Frisch said. “The guys that have been there before are looking forward to it. The guys who are new are hearing the hype from everyone else. That's a team we pretty much always have in the back of our minds.”
The Hawklets will be well-represented in the individual tournaments Friday and Saturday, also in Springfield.
Alex Koca and Jack Evans qualified for the state singles tournament, and a team of John Nogalski and Jacob Moore will compete in the doubles tournament. Koca is the top singles player in the Hawklets' lineup.
“Alex has made a tremendous jump from last year,” Frisch said. “His game has improved immensely. He hits a bigger, heavier ball and hits it more consistently. He really put in some hard work in the offseason. Mentally, he's ready to go.”
Also in Class 2, Lee's Summit West's Tanner Ferrell and Raymore-Peculiar's Travis Hopkins will compete in the singles tournament.
In doubles, Blue Springs South's tandem of Paul Province and Alec Barber qualified by winning their sectional tournament. Lee's Summit West's top doubles team, Franklin Zhong and Aaron Cunningham, placed second to also qualify.
BOYS TENNIS: Class 1 preview
Pembroke Hill's undefeated streak of more than two years is gone, but the challenge to extend a state championship run is alive and well.
The four-time defending champion Raiders will face John Burroughs of St. Louis in the Missouri Class 1 semifinals Thursday morning. Mary Institute/Country Day School (MICDS) of St. Louis and Logan-Rogersville will meet in the other semifinal, with the winners advancing to an afternoon championship match.
Pembroke Hill's top two singles players — Chandler McCray and Tristan Threatt — will compete in the state singles tournament Friday and Saturday, along with Barstow's Steven Ketchmark.
Barstow's Sohil Bhagat and Ben Abbas have qualified for the state doubles tournament, as has Grain Valley's Nichols and Lane Elliott and Pembroke Hill's Daniel Han and Noah Bortnick.
BOYS GOLF: State recap
Pembroke Hill's shaky start to the opening day of the Missouri Class 3 state golf tournament was predictable.
Coach Evan Scobie says he also saw the Raiders' second day charge up the leaderboard coming, too. Pembroke Hill moved from fifth to third on the second day of the tournament at the Sedalia Country Club — a late move that was typical for the team for much of the season, according to its coach.
“All year the group has been playing from behind,” Scobie said. “It's not unusual for them to play the worst nine holes of their lives and then play the best nine of their lives right afterwards.”
While comebacks were enough to propel Pembroke Hill to district and sectional triumphs, that style got the Raiders into trouble at the state tournament. An impressive second round in difficult wind conditions wasn't enough to make up for a first-day deficit, and Mary Institute/Country Day School (MICDS) of St. Louis won the tournament.
Still, third place provides optimism. Pembroke Hill graduates only one senior from its team, which was led at last week's state meet by Preston Fleenor, who placed seventh. Fleenor was the only player who had previously played at the state meet, allowing him the much-needed experience the rest of the lineup (Charlie Hamilton, Zach Cobb, William Esrey and Joey Gamble) wasn't able to enjoy.
“It's a learning experience for our guys,” Scobie said. “Going forward, they're only going to get better. Next year, we'll be outstanding.”
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