Boys tennis routs Hickman

Junior+Brian+Baker+runs+to+hit+a+backhand+against+his+opponent%2C+Jack+OConnor%2C+from+Rockhurst+High+School.+RBHS+ended+up+losing+the+match+9-0+against+their+rivals.%0A

Junior Brian Baker runs to hit a backhand against his opponent, Jack O’Connor, from Rockhurst High School. RBHS ended up losing the match 9-0 against their rivals.

John Flanegin

After an 0-9 loss to the 2013-14 class two state champion Rockhurst hawklets on Saturday, the RBHS tennis team earned a sweep of their own against crosstown rival Hickman  last night with a tally of 9 matches to none.
The now 12-1 Bruins have dominated the fellow District 9 Kewpies in recent years, with a record of 5-0 against HHS in the past five years. While the rivalry may seem to have lost a bit of its luster, sophomore Brian Baker still views the fellow Columbia squad as a formidable foe.
“They [Hickman] always come out with energy and are ready to play, so the matches are never easy,” Baker said. “They are our crosstown rival so there is definitely some tension there, but we just have to come into each dual with confidence. We know that if we play well we will have enough to beat them and overcome that tension.
Baker and senior partner Rohit Rao started the dual off with an 8-1 win at #1 doubles to catapult the Bruins into an early 1-0 lead. RBHS finished 3-0 in doubles play and showcased a small piece of the squad’s future with contributions from freshmen Ashwan Elangovan and Lincoln Wasden in an 8-1 win in #3 doubles.
Head coach Ben Loeb credits the leadership of some of the team’s top players in the success of the Bruins younger athletes.
“In singles Rohit Rao played a gritty match at #1. He came back after losing a tough, close first set. He never gave in,” Loeb said. “…Rohit leads by example, I don’t view it as senior leadership. Brian Baker is a sophomore and he’s a leader too. The new guys to varsity have seen how we do things; how we like to compete.”
One of those new guys is sophomore Keerthivaas Premkumar, who spent much of his freshman season on JV. Premkumar has transitioned well after making the daunting jump to varsity in his second campaign, and earned a 6-0 6-2 win at #6 singles. The 5’7 sophomore credits much of his success to his off-season training, allowing for a physical and mental transformation in his game.
“I have gotten a lot stronger and faster and overall my performance on court has gone to a different level, especially because now I can drive the ball and look to finish points faster that before,” Premkumar said. “Now I feel like I have the ability to step up and play aggressive tennis and finish points quicker.”
Despite a 9-0 win Loeb still see weaknesses the squad needs to fix, but was proud of his outfit’s play.
“There were some individual things that are player specific we need to improve upon,” Loeb said. “But overall we played a good, sound dual meet. Our doubles play was good, especially at #1.”
RBHS will face off against some of the Missouri’s best competition in the upcoming Tournament of Champions held at the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School beginning friday, April 24th.
By John Flanegin