It’s been a tale of two seasons so far for the St. Louis U. High tennis team. At times, the Jr. Bills have presented a dominant, dynamic roster that can easily clean up weaker teams. Over the past week, SLUH bested both last year’s rival Lindbergh and CBC without dropping a single match. Both contests were won 9-0 and over in time to do homework.
On Tuesday though, as the sun was setting beneath the dense trees that surround MICDS’s campus, SLUH found themselves deep into hour three of a close match against the Rams, which the team ultimately lost 5-4. When not dominating smaller programs, SLUH has struggled to win against stronger teams this season, cementing them as a solid middle-of-the-pack team. Currently they sit at 3-5, and with two remaining MCC matches, the Jr. Bills are hoping to capitalize on the second half of their schedule and right the ship before District play next month.
SLUH has certainly had a difficult first half of the season. Facing teams like Ladue, a favorite for the State title this year, and Marquette, MICDS, and Priory, schools that consistently have deep programs, SLUH has been tested time and time again. It was last Saturday’s match against Kansas City’s Rockhurst High School that spoke the loudest, though. The Jr. Bills lost 5-4, but the matches could not have been closer.
Both No. 1 doubles, played by seniors Gus Tettamble and Henry Dowd, and No 2. Doubles, played by senior Jake Marison and junior Luke Gund, were decided in tiebreaks after grueling 7-7 ties. Neither team could pull out a win in the 10-point game though, and SLUH headed into the singles matches already down. Senior Niko Nadreau’s and junior Josh Lombardi’s win at No. 3 doubles meant that the deficit was only one, though. To win, SLUH would need to win two more singles matches than Rockhurst. Better singles play under Tettamble would be essential.
While SLUH did see a glimpse of better singles production, it was not enough to overcome the Hawklets. No. 1 seed Tettamble, No. 2 seed Dowd, and No. 3 seed Luke Gund all won their singles matches on Saturday, the first time all three have been victorious in a closely contested match this season. Below them, though, Rockhurst’s lower seeds did just enough to win against Lombardi, Nadreau, and Marison, giving them the win by one game. Still, Tettamble liked what he saw from the team.
“Rockhurst is a very deep team and we got a lot of good production, especially from the lower guys in our lineup, which was important for them to have some momentum going into the later half of the season,” he said.
Momentum has been an important theme for SLUH over the past few days, especially coming off the undefeated win against Lindbergh on Monday. Dowd agreed that the Rockhurst match was a turning point.
“I think it shows that we are serious contenders,” he said. “Rockhurst has always been a good team and it seemed like every match went to a tiebreak. Unfortunately we lost as a team, but we had really good matches all around and that gave us confidence. It felt like we were finally in our stride.”
That stride, which faltered slightly during the MICDS match on Tuesday, was renewed during last night’s senior night at Vianney. After struggling against MICDS’s strong baseline play and failing once agains to capitalize on tiebreak points, the Jr. Bills got back on their feet against the Griffins, winning 9-0. That momentum will carry the Jr. Bills into the final stretch of their season where they will look to pull out similar wins against De Smet next Monday and Chaminade on Thursday before a week long break heading into Districts.
Tettamble, meanwhile, has stayed perfect on the season. After going down early in his singles match against Priory last Thursday, Tettamble fought back and won the first set 6-4. He won the second set 7-6 in a tiebreak. Since then, it's been smooth sailing. He even picked up a strong win against Lindbergh’s No.1 seed Brian Kim, a frequent opponent for Tettamble who will likely face him in the State singles bracket.
“I was playing well and it was a windy day, which made things tricky, but I was happy to get out of there with a pretty good score against (Kim),” Tettamble said.
His constant success is inspiring the rest of the team.
“We have to feed off of Gus’s playing right now,” said Dowd. “It's not very often you see a kid like Gus come through the lineup. We have to see that and motivate ourselves to play better. We don’t want to let him down.”
Today, the Jr. Bills will be competing in the annual Tournament of Champions at MICDS, which features individual singles and doubles brackets. Tettamble looks to make a strong showing in the singles bracket while doubles teams below him will be testing the waters against other competition before potential District matchups.
“(The MICDS tournament) is going to be a great spot just to see where we’re at,” said Dowd. “It’ll be great to compare where we were at the beginning of the year to where we are now and where we can get to before state.”
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