It was a storybook ending for John Nogalski and the dominant Rockhurst tennis team.
Nogalski, a senior, won the deciding match in the Hawklets 5-0 victory over Christian Brothers College on Thursday in the Class 2 championship match at the 2014 Missouri Boys Tennis Tournament which was held at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
“I am playing doubles in the individual tournament, so this was my last singles match as a high school player,” said Nogalski, who will play tennis next year at St. Louis University as his parents, John and Mary, did. “It was great to be the final and clinching match. I did not stall but it was so cool that everyone came over to me court and celebrated.”
Rockhurst defended its championship and did so with an exclamation point: No player lost a set in the 10 finished matches Thursday (the Hawklets defeated Rock Bridge 5-0 in the semifinals Thursday morning).
“We have four seniors who have been on the varsity almost every year,” said Alex Koca, one of the seniors along with Nogalski, Jacob Moore and Patrick Michaelis. “I knew that the expectations were high since we had everyone returning from the championship team this year. They came after us but we responded well. We were on the courts two and a half hours every day in preparation for this season. We worked hard and this was the reward. It was great to close out our high school career with another championship.”
Koca will also play collegiately next season. He will attend Creighton.
Rockhurst, which has now won a state record 17 state team titles, was never more dominant than it was Thursday. In the championship match against the Cadets, Rockhurst lost a total of just 10 games in the five completed matches.
“We have four seniors and three juniors who have been here befor,e and I think the experience showed today,” Rockhurst coach Zach Frisch said. “They are comfortable and familiar with this state tournament and they just stuck to their routines and didn’t worry about all the hype.
“A lot of other people put high expectations on this team. We knew that everyone would be gunning for us. But they kept their focus all season and we played great tennis here. We played some of our best tennis on the biggest day of the year.”
Pembroke Hill also made the championship match Thursday. The Raiders had a decisive 5-0 win over Warrensburg in the semifinals with straight set wins at No. 1 (March Zheng), No. 2 (Tristan Threatt), No. 3 (Sam Kramer), No. 5 (Josh Bortnik) and No. 6 (Cormac Chester) but then fell to defending Class 1 champion Mary Institute/Country Day School (MICDS) 5-0 in the title match Thursday afternoon.
The Rams were almost as dominant as Rockhurst. They only lost 13 total games in the five completed matches (Class 2 champion Rockhurst did defeat Class 1 champion MICDS 7-2 in the season opening Deco Turf High School Tennis Team Championships in Louisville).
“MICDS is strong at every position,” Pembroke Hill coach Dale Eshelbrenner said. “I thought we played pretty well, but to beat them we needed to play our very best tennis match of the season.”