After a long fall season of ladder tournaments and challenge matches, the varsity racquetball team is ready to make a push at its 11th straight National Championship. Plus, after last season's Nationals were canceled due to the pandemic, the varsity team is especially anxious to reclaim its title in 2022. They started off on the right foot two weeks ago when they went 6-1 against a talented CBC team.
Starting off at the top seed was senior Will Shorey, who beat CBC’s top seed, Jake Schmidt, 15-5, 15-8. Shorey was very happy with the way he played.
“I was really proud I beat Jake. He ranks pretty high in my league,” said Shorey. “For our team as a whole, and for me, serves were really huge”
An element in practice this season has been focusing on player’s serves, a free shot against opponents that can lead to easy points in games. Senior Jared Thornberry, playing at No. 3, also spoke on the importance of the serve in his 15-12, 15-7 win over CBC’s Spencer Keith.
“I think we really need to keep focusing on our serves, so that we’re strong when we do get those easy opportunities to win points,” said Thornberry. “We were able to get up on our opponents early, which allowed us to make mistakes but then get back on top.”
Senior Danny Phillips, at No. 4, had similar results. Phillips won in two games, 15-6, 15-4. The lefty will look to continue his dominant performance in his next match against Kirkwood.
Senior Max Telken suffered the only defeat of the day for the varsity squad in the No. 2 singles match. He lost an up and down game to Gabe Collins in a tiebreaker, 15-9, 3-15, 2-11. Telken, a second year varsity player, will have to draw on some of that past experience to pull out a win in his next match.
While the top half of the varsity team is led by second year seniors, the bottom half of varsity is filled with almost all first year juniors. Leading the way at No. 5 is junior Nick Heinlein, who won in two games against Emerson Foote 15-10, 15-1. Heinlein’s strong variety in his serves and solid foundation in his mechanics leads to him dominating the second game, only allowing one point.
The only senior on the bottom half of varsity, Clark Martin, won his match against Nick Giannotti in three games 10-15, 15-7, 11-1. Martin’s raw power and strong serve should allow him to win lots of games this coming season.
Rounding out the varsity squad is the doubles team of juniors Luke Dannegger and Max Adelman. They won their doubles match in complete domination 15-3, 15-0. Dannegger’s ability to put shots down and Adelman's patience in long rallies makes for the perfect pair on the court.
The first set of matches was a great starting point to build off of for the rest of the season.
“I like that we started with a really tough team (in CBC), one of our toughest competitions was the first match off the bat,” said Stephen Deves, head of the racquetball program. “It shows that our guys are really going to have to work to be successful this year”
The varsity team has done nothing but work so far this season at practices, and even though SLUH has won ten straight national titles, they aren't crowned champions automatically because of the “SLUH” label.
“It’s a lot to live up to, a lot of pressure,” Shorey said. “But Coach Hoffman sat us down and said, ‘It’s going to be tough, you guys gotta come up big’”
While there might be lots of pressure involved in claiming that title, there is also some positivity brought out of SLUH’s reputation.
“There’s also a lot of enjoyment in knowing that we are a dominant force in the league and that people look to us as a dominant force,” stated Deves. “It comes with some confidence which I think is good.”
After another dominant 6-0 win against Kirkwood on Wednesday night, the team, as always, has some significant momentum heading into its next matches. After an important Winter Rollout Tournament this weekend, the Jr. Bills will face Parkway West next Thursday.
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