Hickman’s Manolov, Rock Bridge advance to state tennis tournament

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All five of Rock Bridge’s players and Hickman’s Mirra Manolov, who qualified for Class 2 individual sectionals, won their matches on Wednesday to qualify for the state tournament. The matches started the day before but, because of rain, were postponed until Wednesday.

Manolov said having a match take place over the course of two days can be mentally challenging.

“You have to go in with a certain mindset and once you have to stop that match you break that mindset and you have to mentally prepare yourself for the match all over again,” Manolov said.

However, Hickman coach Jaime Vargas said tennis players are used to delays, so he said nothing different to Manolov to prepare once again for the match.

Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb said the postponed matches didn’t matter much for his top players. But it did help the younger doubles team, as he got to address strategies that could work to beat their opponents.

On the first day, everyone in District 8 got off to a strong start before the rain hit. The success carried over and all six competitors from District 8 won their matches.

In singles, Rock Bridge’s Corinne Farid defeated Sara Michelle Van Amburgh from Holt 6-0, 6-0. Hickman’s Mirra Manolov defeated Nawal Cheema from Liberty 6-1, 6-1.

Farid beat her opponent, which qualified Farid for her third straight individual state tournament and her first in singles. Manolov, a freshman, beat Cheema, a two-time state qualifier in singles.

Manolov admitted she was thrilled to qualify for state in her first year of high school tennis, especially in front of her friends and family.

“I am so happy my team was out here, a lot of them came out and watched me today, so I really love their support,” Manolov said.

Vargas was proud of Manolov’s performance in her postseason match.

“She was composed, she played her game,” Vargas said. “She plays the key points so well that even if she is down love-30, it’s no big deal. She comes back and puts pressure on the other player.”

With her sectional win, Manolov achieved one of her long-term season goals of qualifying for the state tournament in singles. As she goes deeper into the postseason, the level of play will continue to rise but, Manolov said she is curious to see how she will fare against the state’s top competition.

In doubles, both Rock Bridge teams defeated their opponents handily, Eleanor Fay and Mary Hose defeated Laila Votruba and Camille Carlton from Timberland (6-0, 6-0) and Maggie Lin and Anjali Ramesh defeated Meg Flemming and Kayleigh Leahy from Fort Zumwalt West (6-1, 6-1).

While Loeb expected his top players to perform well, he is especially proud of the freshman duo’s (Lin/Ramesh) postseason run so far.

Fay said she was proud of her team’s ability to maintain their momentum from Tuesday.

“We did a good job staying strong on both days and keeping ourselves in the mentality that, ‘Hey, we were doing so well yesterday, we’ve got to keep it up and go in with the same mentality today,’” Fay said.

Fay, a senior, qualified for her fourth straight state tournament as an individual. She qualified in singles her freshman year and has now qualified in doubles three times.

“It’s incredible. It’s a really good feeling to know that I have had such success all four years with the help of my teammates of course, its not just me,” Fay said.

Hose also qualified for state for her third time, but for the first time in doubles.

Fay is very high on the chances Hose and her have at winning a state title in doubles.

“I think we’re a really good team,” Fay said “There’s going to be some tough competition out there, but Mary and I are ready to rise to it.

Loeb believes that Farid in singles and Fay/Hose in doubles have very strong chances to be contenders for state titles. However, he admitted that the actual bracket could have a big impact on their chances.

“Part of it is that you have got to get a good draw and a big factor of course is you have got to play well,” Loeb said.

Rock Bridge will next be in action at noon Saturday in Hazelwood as they face Fort Zumwalt West in their team sectional match.

Manolov will represent Hickman at the MSHSAA Individual Championships on Oct. 19 in Springfield.

Supervising editor is Seth Bodine.

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