Tennis returns to final four

Junior+Tess+Lovig+returns+a+backhand+shot+during+the+Great+8+Tournament.+The+Bruins+went+on+to+defeat+both+Visitation+Academy+and+Barstow+that+day.+Photo+by+Bailey+Washer

Junior Tess Lovig returns a backhand shot during the Great 8 Tournament. The Bruins went on to defeat both Visitation Academy and Barstow that day. Photo by Bailey Washer

Jenna Liu

A long, dark green banner hangs in a corridor at RBHS, with the words ‘Final Four’ inscribed in gold across the top. Right below is a list of nearly annual dates ranging from 1998 to 2013, for staggering total of 14 final four appearances in the last 15 years. Nearby is a single glass case with plaques and trophies claiming every inch of surface area.Therein lies the legacy of the RBHS girl’s tennis program; unassuming reminders that the Bruins have established themselves as powerhouses in the world of high school tennis.

Last October, the Bruins were prime candidates to play their way into a 9th state championship. Entering the state semifinals beside the defending champions St. Joseph’s Academy, the girls were given a chance to avenge their previous year’s loss against St. Joseph, who denied the Bruins a ‘threepeat’ after two consecutive state championships.

This year, the Bruins played their way back into the final four after defeating Marquette 5-0 in sectional play.

Last fall, after hours of grueling play, the team edged St. Joseph’s before falling to Lee Summit’s North in the finals, walking away with their ninth runner up trophy, the most of any school in state history. Walking away as the second ranked team out of 90 competitors in their class is no small accomplishment, but now the Bruins are on route to try to bring a first place state trophy back to RBHS. The Bruins are ready this year to once again pave their way to state, according to RBHS girls tennis coach, Ben Loeb.

“The outcome goal is to make it back to the Final Four again and then see if it is realistic to set the ultimate outcome goal of winning the state title,” Loeb said earlier in the year.

Before the season began, RBHS girls tennis coach Ben Loeb expressed optimism about the prospects of returning members and several new arrivals after the team’s #2 and #3 girls, Sophi Farid and Allison Baker, graduated last May.

“We have two promising freshman coming in and we also have some other girls back that played JV,” Loeb said in August. “We will need at least six girls to play high-level varsity for us to have the type of season we hope to have.”

That season has certainly come to fruition as the Bruins have gone undefeated this year and enter the semifinals holding wins over the other three teams in the final four. In the state semifinal the Bruins square off against Notre Dame de Sion (12-2), a team they defeated 6-3 at home this year. The other semifinal features Jefferson City (20-5) and St. Joseph’s Academy (17-3). The Bruins defeated the Jays twice this year in a home and home series and defeated St. Joseph’s 9-0 on Aug. 27.

With such a history of success the expectations are high, and with them comes the demand for hard work and strenuous training.

“It’s not really one of those sports where if you have natural talent you’re set,” Lovig said. “I play about 15 hours a week, on average, which is how much you need to play if you want to get better.”

Lovig has been playing varsity since her freshman year, and is one of the returning players Loeb named as key to the Bruins continued success, along with Boeschen. As the lone senior on the 2014-2015 squad, Boeschen has stepped into a leadership position with her own unique responsibilities.

“When people play tennis outside of the high school season it’s an individual sport, so when we come together for the high school season, the concept of a team has to be re-established into the minds of the players,” Boeschen said. “As a senior, I have to model this concept to the other players in order to support playing on and off the court.”

Boeschen, the top ranked player for the Bruins, has made regular trips to the final four in her past three years on the varsity team. Though past successes might be seen as a positive indication of future events, Boeschen said making it to the state level is an amazing feat within itself, and is no easy task.

“While the overall goal is to get to state, in order to do this we have to have smaller goals which start with winning every match on our schedule,” Boeschen said.

Her coach echoed this slow and steady approach, with Loeb concentrating on the means, rather than the end.

“The performance goal is always the same—prepare to do the best we can,” Loeb said. “We don’t talk about outcome but we do talk about the process. If you are a successful program, then winning is always a goal, but it’s not the thing we focus on since it is not totally within our control.”

Lovig agrees with Loeb about not looking too far ahead.

“With myself and many members of the team, it is important to stay in the moment,” Lovig said. “Focusing too much on the outcome of our matches can distract us from being able to compete to our full ability.”

The number three singles player said the two freshman on the team are prepared to compete at state.

“So far, the freshmen have kept themselves calm and collected. This is their first year at state, and it is impossible to predict how someone is going to act in this situation, but I couldn’t be more proud of them and their attitudes,” Lovig said. “They have the competitive fight that all great athletes have, and no matter what happens today, we could not have made it this far without them or any member of the team.”