SPRINGFIELD — Rockhurst sophomore tennis player Jack Evans was feeling no pain Thursday as he celebrated with his teammates after the Hawklets captured the Class 2 team championship at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
By BILL HESTER
Special to The Star
It was a different story last week, when Evans, the team’s No. 3 singles player, did not think that he would be able to participate at the state tournament. Evans rolled his ankle while playing basketball May 17.
“I went to the ER, and it was feared that I had a fractured ankle,” Evans said.
Evans was on crutches for a couple of days and saw an orthopedist Monday night. The doctor gave Evans a glimmer of hope and then gave him the OK Tuesday night if he felt up to it.
Evans practiced with the team Wednesday and decided to give it a go Thursday. He won both of his matches as the Hawklets capped their undefeated season with a 5-1 win in the semifinals over Christian Brothers College High School and a convincing 5-0 triumph over three-time defending champion Rock Bridge in the championship match Thursday afternoon.
“The ankle bothered me a little bit in the first match today, but I was operating on adrenaline in the championship match,” Evans said. “It is just unreal that we were able to do this.”
Alex Koca, the Hawklets’ No. 1 singles player, closed out the championship with a thrilling win over Rock Brige’s Alex Jones. He fought off a set point in the second set tie breaker and won 9-7.
“I will never forget the feeling of everybody running up to me after the final point,” said Koca, a junior. “We came close last year, and I came close in doubles. We have been talking about this for weeks and weeks. It doesn’t get any better than this. It is the best feeling of my high school career.”
The title was the first for second-year coach Zach Fritsch, who was a part of four team titles as a player in addition to two individual doubles championships with Taj Harrison.
“It was awesome to win as a player but so sweet to do so as a coach,” Fritsch said. “I knew they were hungry for this match although I never could have dreamed it would end 5-0. We have stressed competing all season, and these guys really went out and competed today and all year.”
Rockhurst, which did not have a senior in its state lineup, finished 13-0 overall. One of those wins came against Class 1 champion Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, which defeated John Burroughs 5-1 for the Class 1 title.
It was John Burroughs that ended the four-year reign of Pembroke Hill with a hard-fought 5-3 win in the semifinals Thursday morning. The teams split the six singles matches, with the Raiders winning at the top three positions with March Zheng, Chandler McCray and Tristan Threatt.
The Bombers won at No. 1 and 3 doubles to clinch the match, which lasted almost four hours.
Pembroke Hill rebounded with a convincing 5-0 win over Logan-Rogersville in the third- place match.
“That first match was a tossup and could have gone either way,” Pembroke Hill coach Dale Eshelbrenner said. “There were a lot of very close matches, and we just came up a little short. They played very well in doubles.”