Rockhurst tennis coach Mark Mills knew his team was going to be in an uphill battle against Columbia Rock Bridge in the Missouri state Class 2 boys team tennis tournament.
End the end, the Hawklets suffered their first loss in 15 matches, falling to the Bruins 5-1 on Thursday in the championship match at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
"We were up against a very, very good team," Mills said. "I felt that our kids played great and fought hard for every point all the way to the end."
Senior James Dunmire and junior Nathaniel Bodde gave Rockhurst a win at No. 3 doubles as Rock Bridge had a 2-1 advantage going into singles.
"That was a huge win and gave us at least a shot," Mills said. "I knew it was still going to be a long shot, but at least there was light at the end of the tunnel. But then the train came."
The Rock Bridge train swept the first three singles spots, all in straight sets.
The championship was the third in a row for the Bruins, who have won seven of the last 11 state team titles. They have been in the final for 17 consecutive years.
Rockhurst had reached the championship match with a convincing 5-0 victory over Parkway Central in the semifinals. The Hawklets against Parkway Central swept the three doubles spots and got wins by identical 6-1, 6-2 scores in singles from seniors Graham Colombo and Nicholas Hare at No. 3 and 4 singles respectively.
Defending Class 1 state champion Pembroke Hill finished third. The Raiders had a tough draw, facing a young and talented John Burroughs team in the semifinals.
The two teams had met in the regular season on April 28 with John Burroughs winning 9-0.
But Pembroke Hill's top player, Nathan Turtledove, was out with a back injury at the time. Turtledove came back late in the regular season and was back at No. 1, which meant that every other Raider player moved down a spot in the order. Thus, there were no rematches from the regular-season match against John Burroughs.
But the result was similar: John Burroughs won 5-1. Pembroke Hill seniors Garrett Kincaid and Matthew Gernon won in a tie-breaker at No. 2 doubles, and the Raiders were in striking range after doubles.
But three Bomber freshmen, Rory Sutter at No. 3, Samuel Wang at No. 5 and Dev Nayak at No. 6 won straight-set singles matches for the Bombers.
"I knew they were tough, but I thought we would give them a tougher match with Nathan being back," Pembroke Hill coach Justin Romick said. "I was hoping that we would compete better than we did, especially at the bottom of the lineup. I was proud of the seniors for giving us a win in doubles and keeping us alive.
"But the four freshmen from John Burroughs are good and make me uncomfortable. But we have a good group coming back and have some good freshmen coming in. I look forward to competing with them for the next four years. Hopefully, we can use this experience and make ourselves even better."
John Burroughs went on to defeat Springfield Catholic 5-0 in the Class 1 championship match for its first boy's team title since 2004.
The individual phase of the state tournament will begin Friday at 9 a.m. at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
Staley senior Carson Gates will look to take down Parkway South's Carson Haskins in a highly anticipated singles match which would be played Saturday. Gates has a first-round match against Francis Howell North sophomore Will Schellman.
Gates brings a 29-0 record into the state meet. Haskins, who is a three-time state singles champion, twice beating Gates in the championship matches, is 21-0 and has not lost a match in his four years of high school.