After a grueling, hours-long match against Westminster on Monday, the St. Louis U. High varsity tennis players were able to ride their momentum from the prior week and secure a strong win, bringing the team to a winning record on the season. At 4-3, the Jr. Bills are finally starting to see some success on the court.
The wave of strong play started last Friday at MICDS, where six players competed in the Tournament of Champions. Friday’s tournament featured several local teams, such as MICDS, Westminster, and CBC, but also teams from Columbia and Kansas City, giving SLUH’s players the opportunity to face many different opponents.
Despite early losses from the rest of the SLUH team, hopes were high because of the strong start of junior Henry Dowd and sophomore Luke Gund, playing in the main draw for doubles. After winning both of their matches in the morning thanks to cohesive play and an intimidating net presence, Dowd and Gund made it to the semifinals after lunch and prepared to face a tough Priory team. The SLUH team got off to a strong start but ultimately lost the semifinals match 6-8. They struggled against Priory’s serves and base-line play but still put up a strong fight, something Dowd was proud of.
“It was good. I’m happy with the performance. Playing with Luke is always fun. He’s a good player and I feel like we really fed off each other's energy. We had a good run, too,” said Dowd.
After the loss, Dowd and Gund won their final match of the day against a doubles team from Marquette to take third in the main doubles draw. The rest of the SLUH team saw mixed results in the loser’s bracket. Junior Jake Marison, playing singles, had an especially big win late in the day against a player from Priory. Battling against a bruised hand, Marison pulled out an 8-6 win to boost team morale.
Overall, SLUH took fifth place in the tournament and assistant coach Jerry Schneller liked what he saw.
“We had good moments and bad moments, but I think we fought really hard in some poor weather and ended up having a good day,” said Schneller.
After the tournament, in the Jr. Bills’ next official match of the season, the varsity squad played at home against Westminster. The team left with a 6-3 victory, but not after some long sets. No. 3 doubles, played by senior Thomas Binek and junior Nathan Rich, lasted well over 90 minutes, as the duo notched a 9-7 win against the Westminster team. Before that, No.1 doubles and No. 2 doubles both won in hard fought matches.
Dowd, who once again played No. 1 doubles with Gund, was excited by their 8-6 victory.
“It was nice, their 1 and 2 (seeds) were both good. It was good beating Westminster, they’re definitely one of our rivals because we play them every year,” said Dowd.
After doubles, the singles matches began and the Jr. Bills looked to continue their dominance. On court one, with junior Gus Tettamble still out with a wrist injury, Dowd stepped up and did just that, winning 6-3, 6-2. No. 3 seed Lombardi also won, but not after a confusing slump. After quickly winning the first set 6-2, he dropped the second set 0-6. Despite the odd shutout, Lombardi pulled his game together and finished the tie break 10-6. Marison, playing Westminster’s No. 5 seed, was the other singles win for SLUH.
The mood at the end of the match, though, was somewhat muted as Gund lost a long singles match against Westminster’s imposing No. 2 seed. After losing the first set, Gund had battled back with incredible resilience to win the second set in a seven-point tie break. Unfortunately, as both players geared up for a 10-point tiebreak to decide the match, fatigue set in and Gund barely lost his singles match.
Still, SLUH tennis left the courts at Dwight Davis with a winning record for the first time this season, proving that, despite the greater depth of other schools in the region and even Tettamble’s absence, the Jr. Bills are still strong contenders. Their next match will be tonight against Chaminade, followed tomorrow by a match against MICDS.
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