New talents aid boys tennis, bring team closer together

Thomas Jamieson-Lucy

Junior Joseph Gu practices tennis afterschool. Photo by Stazi Prost

A late start to the season due to inclement weather in addition to losing five varsity seniors from last year has not diminished the confidence of the boys tennis team. Even with a young team, the overall goal remains the same: to win state for the third year in a row.

“We have some players that I think have a lot of potential, so we are kind of replacing experience with potential as much as anything,” coach Ben Loeb said. “We’re hoping we can make the transition and still have just as good a team.”

In order to make up for lost time at the beginning of the season, junior Alex Jones said the team is practicing by facing off against each other. Even though the team missed two matches, Jones believes it won’t cause them any problems. However, one duel missed was against Rockhurst, one of the best teams in the state. Since they will be unable to make up the match against Rockhurst, the only time the team members will see them is in the state tournament. Loeb said missing this duel was not ideal.

“You hope in [the state tournament] that [a late start] doesn’t affect you,” Loeb said. “In the immediate time [our ability] is a bit of an unknown given that one of those duels was Rockhurst, our biggest rival at the state level. I wish we could have gotten the whole thing in. That would have given us a better indication of where we are relative to each other, but we didn’t.”

RBHS will have to rely on the talent of the less experienced players toward the end of the varsity line up. Already the team’s younger players have displayed their talent by helping the team defeat Lafayette and Parkway Central. Jones said the best way to get the younger players prepared is to keep the focus high in practice in order to prepare them for important matches in the post season.

“At practice we have a high level of intensity. We show them what to do, what we’ve been doing,” Jones said. “We’ve known each other for a long time, so they know what we do and how we do it.”

New to varsity, freshman Rohit Rao said stepping up to face more experienced players wasn’t going to be easy. But he thinks if he continues to work hard in practice he will be ready for any competition he faces with help from older players on the team.

The upperclassmen “are a delightful bunch. They’re very helpful and encouraging” by showing him what it takes to play with more experienced players, Rao said. The most difficult part is “handling adversity, but I’ve just go to stay focused.”

Jones believes the familiarity of the young players with the work ethic necessary to be part of Bruin tennis will allow them to bridge the experience gap between last year’s and this year’s team. He said if they focus on continuing to practice the way they have for the last two years and play well in the finals they should get a state championship. However, Loeb stressed result-oriented goals like winning a trophy were not all he wanted his players to focus on. He also wanted them to have goals related to their everyday performance in practice.

“I don’t want us to just have outcome goals,” Loeb said. “I want us to have goals on going about it the right way at practice, taking pride in being as good as we can be and playing with confidence when we need it most. Those types of performance goals will improve the chances of us achieving the outcome goal we want to achieve.”

By Thomas Jamieson-Lucy