Tennis prepares for districts


Target sighted: Senior and varsity team captain Brian Baker takes aim at an incoming ball during practice. The Bruins, under the coaching of Ben Loeb, will compete in the district tournament. Competition for the tournament will begin on May 13.

Logan Dorsey

The “Bruin Dynasty,” a nickname synonymous with the Rock Bridge high school men’s tennis team, is an appropriate title; the Bruins’ winning history consists of the past 16 district titles and a state championship five out of the past eight years.
The Bruins (9-1) have lived up to their state title and haven’t disappointed with their only regular season loss coming from Spartanburg, South Carolina, March 25. After their loss, the Bruins bounced back in a big way, sweeping cross town rival Battle 4-0 April 12. Now, the regular season is behind this year’s team.
Individual districts will be at the RBHS tennis courts Saturday, May 13. Those who place first or second will get the chance to play in sectionals Tuesday, May 16. A win at sectionals will allow the Bruins to advance to the state tournament, held on May 25.
But what exactly does an individual district tennis tournament entail, in terms of competitive structure?
“Well, the individual districts tournament is you have two singles entries and two doubles entries, and you can’t play both,” head coach Ben Loeb said. “There’s only six spots, two doubles teams (four kids) and two singles players (two kids), so six players. So you need to get to the finals of either the individuals tournament or the double tournament to qualify for the individual sectionals. If you win an individual sectional round then you go to the individual state tournament.”
In preparation for districts, the Bruins hope to learn from their mistakes and polish the rough areas of their game. Sophomore Jake Fraunfelder, No. 3 on varsity, reflects on how he can improve.
“Definitely the percentage on my first serve and honing down little things in my game to be better,” Fraunfelder said.
The practice regiment doesn’t change. For Loeb it doesn’t matter what stage of the season it is; it’s all about consistency.
“I hold [practices] every day except for Sundays. It doesn’t matter if it’s for the individual or team tournaments,” Loeb said. “We’re holding practices nonetheless. We hold practice for improving in both, though the team tournament is the most important because you’re apart of a team, it means that much more. But the individual tournament is still important.”
Sophomore Zach Grueber, No. 1 on varsity, echoes Loeb’s advice. They have to look at each individual match as a challenge, not as a threat, and focus on the things they can control.
“I think all of us mainly have to work on the mental side of things and on staying positive during the hardships when we go out and compete,” Grueber said.
Going into a district match, one can only imagine what goes inside a player’s head before competing, but for Fraunfelder it’s all about finding zen in the chaos.
“I think I try to stay calm and not get discouraged against who I’m playing,” Fraunfelder said. “It doesn’t really matter who’s on the other side of the net. I try to play my own game and go from there.”
With little time to rest from the recent team district tournament held just three days before the individual district tournament, Saturday, May 13, the Bruins look to continue their success.
“I’m pretty confident. I think this is one of our best teams, if not the best,” Fraunfelder said. “Basically 1-6 we all could play and do well. I’m confident going into districts.”
With the longevity of the Bruins success, the sport’s popularity has seen growth that has come from the overall success and achievements over Loeb’s 23-year-long reign as the head coach. Loeb attributes the boost in the team’s schoolwide popularity to his athlete’s pride in representing RBHS at competitions.
“One look at those state championships, and two look at this final four appearances sign on this board,” Loeb said. “I think that tells you how we’ve had enough kids really value this program, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”