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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Boys’ and Girls’ tennis teams to be inducted in Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

The RBHS girls tennis team poses after winning the Columbia tournament on Saturday, September 28. Photo by Shyamala Ramesh

Columbia high school sports history will be made on the afternoon of the first Sunday in November, Nov. 3. For the first time, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will induct a Columbia Public Schools’ sports program into its exhibits. 

The RBHS girls’ and boys’ tennis teams’ accomplishments propelled them to a hall of fame nomination, head tennis coach Ben Loeb said. They have a combined total of 21 state championships in the past 25 years, with the girls contributing 13 titles and the boys adding another eight. The state title, awarded to the winner from each Class in Missouri, is among many of the program’s accomplishments. Each Class is divided based on the population of each school participating in the tournament, with smaller populated schools in Class 1 and larger populations in Class 2. In a further display of excellence, the girls’ team also have 22 top three finishes at the state tournament in the past 25 years, and the boys achieved top four in the state since 2002.

Jake Fraunfelder hits a backhand in a doubles match with partner Zach Grueber during a match in spring of 2019.
Rock Bridge alum Jake Fraunfelder hits a backhand in a doubles match with partner, alum Zach Grueber during a match in spring of 2019. Photo by Ben Loeb.

Loeb, inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame himself in 2015, has his name engraved on a plaque at the hall of fame in Springfield, MO, as RBHS tennis will have as well. Loeb said he believes the accomplishments of the team represent the athletic ability and commitment from the players themselves. 

“[The induction] is a reflection of having so many kids that have come through the program that have made this a high priority,” Loeb said. “And to develop their tennis games to a point where we could be so successful with our teams for so many years.”

For these reasons, Loeb nominated the RBHS girls’ and boys’ tennis programs. In order to apply for the award, the applicant must have several listed achievements, such as championship titles, as well as letters of recommendation from outside sources. The selection committee of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame receives about 300 nominations annually and evaluates the candidates based on their merits, President and Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Jerald Andrews said. 

“The mission of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is to recognize the great athletes and teams and other athletic accomplishments throughout the state,” Andrews said. “And the Rock Bridge High School tennis program girls and boys was selected based on its overwhelming success.”

The group’s triumphs include the most consecutive girls’ and boys’ state titles, with eight in total, which shattered the previous record. In order to reach a high level of success, implementing match day strategies in a non-competitive environment is important, Loeb said.

The team improved playing wise through rigorous evening practice during the fall, conditioning and sports psychology lessons. The communal aspect of RBHS tennis also played a large role in the strong performance of the players, senior team member Gabi Tella said. Her experience over the past four years has taught her to work hard in order to have an optimal result. Tella said she improved her mental strength, grit and fighting spirit as well.

“Playing for a team is not something that we always have in tennis, and I think it’s a good place to improve and get better,” Tella said. “If you lose, it’s not just you that’s losing, but now you are affecting a bigger group.”

Even with the extra pressure, Tella said she grew and matured as an individual. As the season progressed, she began to connect with the group and viewed the girls as a family the more years she was involved in tennis.

“All four years we had a great season, with a great group of girls,” Tella said. “Everyone bonded and welcomed each other so well, and I think that is really important to become a good team.”

Loeb is especially proud of the girls’ team’s accomplishments, saying “identifying success where there is an abundance of it is important.”

“We’re a public school in a sport that’s dominated by the top private schools, and we’ve [risen] above it,” Loeb said. “We’ve accomplished so much that I felt our program deserved recognition in this way, and hope that [the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame] would see it, as well.”

What do you think about the RBHS tennis team’s achievements so far? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Contributor
Anjali Noel Ramesh
Anjali Noel Ramesh, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Anjali Noel Ramesh is one of two Editors-in-Chief for Southpaw and Bearing News. She enjoys playing tennis and traveling. In her free time, she listens to music and spends time outside.

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