Senior Rohit Rao’s match to close out the dual between RBHS and Jefferson City High School exemplified the Bruin’s regular season. Rao’s match was full of ups and downs, but ultimately Rao had to use a weapon that the Bruins displayed their whole season: grit. After trailing his long-time friend David Clausen for most of the game, Rao beautifully struck a forehand down the line on break point that shifted the momentum of the game.
At the end, the Bruin’s number one singles player fought through his fourth match tiebreaker of his senior season to defeat Clausen and deliver RBHS a 7-2 win over their rivals. Rao and Clausen hugged each other after the two hour marathon because both of them knew it was a special match.
“I have known Rohit for a really long time, and it was fitting to play my last regular season game against him,” Clausen said. “I was mad at myself a little bit ago because I missed many chances, but looking back at it now, it was a great game.”
In what had been a recent weakness of the Bruins, the three doubles teams set a good tone early on to provide RBHS a 3-0 lead before the singles matches. John Swift and Vaughn Mueller won 8-6, Ashwath Elangovan and Lincoln Wasden won 8-2, and Rao and Brian Baker won 8-2. The early lead was significant in helping the Bruins win the dual.
“Our doubles have improved a lot over the last couple of weeks because it has been a focus during practice for us,” Elangovan said. “I know for me knowing we had a lead before my singles match took away a lot of pressure,”
The two RBHS losses came from hard-fought singles matches. Even though senior Vaughn Mueller lost his match in straight sets, he made his opponent work hard to win every point in what turned out to be another great battle. Similar to Mueller, sophomore John Swift played with immense spirit in his eventual loss.
” I certainly could have done many things better today,” Swift said. “I was hitting unforced error after unforced error, and that really let my opponent off the hook. This loss can ultimately help me though because I am very motivated now to get better in my game before districts.”
The win helped RBHS to 17-1 at the end of the regular season. The Bruins begin their quest for another state title on Monday during the districts tournament.
“We have to mentally and physically shift gears to what is ahead of us now,” Rao said. “That Rockhurst loss still stings the team, and we all are very motivated to do our best.”
By Harsh Singh