Girls tennis prepares for districts, aims for state

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John Flanegin

After a 2014 season that saw the RBHS girls tennis team (14-1) claim the class 2 state title, the Lady Bruins, under the direction of coach Ben Loeb, are primed to repeat. The team is returning five of their top six players from last year.
But before the squad can head to the Cooper Tennis Center in Springfield to defend their title, they must first fend off Battle, Hannibal, Hickman, and Troy Buchanan in the District eight tournament beginning Sept. 28th at Bethel Park.
Despite the loss of Phoebe Boeschen, the former top ranked player on the girls tennis team, the Lady Bruins have been able to plug Boeschen’s former doubles partner, senior Tess Lovig, into the team’s top spot.
Lovig, now in her fourth and final year on varsity, believes having Boeschen as a role model allowed for her to learn how to be a leader for the rest of her teammates.
“I think one thing Phoebe was very good at was setting an example of working hard every day and motivating others to do the same,” Lovig said. “I saw how much of a difference one person’s effort made, so I try to do the same.”
Loeb believes the presence of fellow seniors Ronni Farid and Hannah Pohl in addition to Lovig has only made the Lady Bruins stronger with a total of more than ten years of varsity experience between them.
“This season we have more of a leadership by committee,” Loeb said. “ Last year it was mostly on our number one player, our only senior in the starting line-up. This year we have three seniors in the top six so the dynamics have changed.”
Joining the three seniors are sophomores Katherine Dudley and Faith Wright as well as freshman Elen Fay. Both Dudley and Wright were an integral part of last year’s championship squad as freshmen.
Wright, who has moved up to the team’s number two player, knows the squad has a target on their backs but views it as an avenue to prove the Lady Bruins can handle the pressure that comes with being revered as the reigning champs.
“There is pressure in trying to defend our state title, but it is a good kind of pressure because the teams we are playing this year recognize that we were last year’s state champs,” Wright said, “so it keeps us on our toes to continue to show them why we are the best.”
Both Edwardsville (IL) and Lafayette have pushed RBHS to perform this season, with Edwardsville handing the Lady Bruins their first loss by a score of 4-5. Fortunately, RBHS will not face the Tigers in the postseason since they are in a different state.
Lafayette, however, could give the Lady Bruins fits when it comes tournament time. Even with RBHS defeating the Knights 7-2, Lovig still sees Lafayette as a team to watch out for in the postseason.
“Although we beat [Lafayette] 7-2, there were a lot of close competitive matches that we did end up winning,” Lovig said. “They were also more intense than any other school we have played. They had the same competitive fight that we do.”
That competitive fight has allowed for RBHS to dominate their district opponents, beating Jefferson City, Battle and Hickman in each of their regular season meetings. Because of this, Loeb sees the team going far into the state tournament, as long as they follow the game plan and continue to focus on the task at hand.
​“I am confident we can make a deep run in the team tournament if we have the work ethic to sustain proper practice intensity training,” Loeb said. “It’s important to respect the game and to realize as Gary Link, who does color commentary for MU Mens Basketball says, that ‘winning is hard!’ If we honor that and prepare our best then we will have opportunities to be very successful just like some other teams as well.”