Bolivar traveled to the Cooper Tennis complex on Monday, May 15, with a trip to the final four at stake, something head coach Nathan Rothdiener is all too familiar with.
In the last three years, coaches Rothdiener and Royce Bryan have been to five final fours, three with the boys team and two with the girls team.
This year, the road was not easy.
“We have a brutal schedule that I think helped prepare the players for what they saw in the postseason,” said Rothdiener. “We knew the path to the final four would be difficult this year, because Rogersville was returning most of their players from last year and I was watching New Covenant all year long and knew they would be tough.”
Bolivar started their road to state in the sectional matchup against Logan-Rogersville. The Liberators jumped out to a 5-1 win, but the match was much closer than the score reflected.
Doubles teams of juniors Seth Martin and Ben Tull and senior Emery Havens and junior Brody Campbell came away with tough wins to give the Liberators a 2-1 lead heading into singles play.
“The key for our wins on Monday was really all in our doubles play,” said Rothdiener. “I knew that if we could just get 2 of the 3 doubles, I really liked our chances.”
Martin dominated his singles match, with Campbell and sophomore Cy Douglas gutting out close wins to capture the win for Bolivar.
Bolivar had won their matchup against Rogersville previously, but Rothdiener knew this match could be different.
“We had beaten them earlier in the year but every match was close, and they won all 3 matches we played against them this past Friday in individual sectionals,” said Rothdiener. “I'm really proud of the guys coming out ready to play.”
After finishing this match, Bolivar was in for a quick turnaround.
Now Bolivar faced up against New Covenant Academy. New Covenant Academy came into this match with a better record than Bolivar at 17-3-1 after a dominating win against Monett in their first match of the day.
Bolivar started out hot again, winning two doubles matches and taking the lead at 2-1 going into singles play.
But New Covenant Academy did not go down easy.
They exploded with three singles wins to take the lead, but Martin and Tull followed quick with two close wins to tie the match at 4-4 with one game remaining.
In comes senior and Northern Iowa basketball commit Kyle Pock.
“Kyle has been a solid rock for our team the last 3 years,” said Rothdiener. “And all of his experience in pressure situations, whether in tennis or basketball, prepared him to handle it, and he was poised and handled it like a true champion.”
Pock won his first set 6-4, but found himself down 0-3 in the next set. With all eyes on him, Pock held out for his team.
Pock got the score back to 5-5, and eventually took two straight games to finish the match and take Bolivar to their third straight Final Four appearance.
“Coach Bryan and I are so proud of these guys and the effort they gave.” Rothdiener said. “It was a hot and muggy day, and they played hard, and left it all on the court and the results speak for themselves. We are headed to the Final Four, and it definitely doesn't get any easier.”
The doubles team of Pock and Martin will start the Class One Doubles tournament on Friday, May 19. They will face off against Nahapetyan & Barry from Osage.
Pock and Martin boast a record of 16-3, including a fifth place finish in the Springfield Invitational Tournament.
This is Pock's third straight appearance in the doubles tournament, following a runner up finish in last year's tournament.
As for the team, Bolivar travels to the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield to play Duchesne on Friday, May 26 at noon.
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