Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Senior Statement: Angel Torres

Angel joined the tennis team his sophomore year, and I was excited. I had taught him in middle school, so I knew that he was a gentle and positive personality, someone who would be excellent to have on a team. Obviously, that is who he has continued to be and he has offered so much in terms of presence and personality.

First of all, have Angel around is uplifting. He is not a loud and rowdy person. He is very likely to be the person sitting off to the side of the conversation with a little, sly smile on his face. He’s likely not making the joke. But he does make everyone else feel comfortable.

Angel is also quiet most of the time, but I believe that he is a thinker. He pays attention. I know that I’ve seen this in his tennis game, because I will often feel like I’m not getting through to a whole group of players when instructing a stroke, and then Angel will walk out and attempt it just like I’ve shown. He is someone who quietly observes and enjoys the presence of those around him, learning from them and supporting them.

Angel is someone that others love to have around. Whether it is convincing him to come out for the team this year or picking him when we do drills in practice, people like to have Angel on their side. Maybe this is because he puts in a lot of work without drawing attention to himself, which makes him an easy teammate to have. I have been impressed by the quiet way he has a positive influence on everyone around him. For whatever great reason, Angel is a person that fills those around him with joy.

I am so grateful to have had Angel as a joyous part of our brotherhood.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Senior Statement: Jonah Farran

When I think about Jonah’s career with Bethany Christian tennis, I am impressed by Jonah’s tenacious desire to compete - to make the very best out of the skills that he has. Jonah didn’t start his tennis career as a surefire star, or even a lock to make the varsity. In fact, in his second year on the tennis team, Jonah only won 1 match - and that was in a tiebreak.

But over the summer before his junior year, I noticed that Jonah was getting a lot better at his groundstrokes, specifically his forehand. His serve also became more consistent, though he couldn’t seem to get the flowing and extended motion of our bigger servers. When his junior season began, he was slotted at #2DJV. But in that match he displayed such energy, such passion, such tenacity. He was all over the place chasing down balls and getting excited as he hit them back in. When he won in a tiebreak, I told him that I was thinking of him for a varsity position, because we needed that tenacity and effort.

The next night, he stepped into varsity with Nathan, playing at #2D match at Northridge that was exhilarating. He and Nathan won in the third set, keeping calm while dealing with a lot of nerves. Here Jonah had gone from 1 JV victory the year before to 1 varsity victory in his first varsity match.

One other thing I love about Jonah is the balance in his personality and his perspective. He seems to look at each situation with a pretty clear view. He knows what he wants to do, knows his own limitations, and finds a way to attack each problem with his strengths. It is obvious in a tennis match as he avoids backhand volleys and lobs on almost all backhand shots, but plays to his forehand as much as he can. But I think it is also true as he contemplates problems in school, and the large problems that face the world. He has great perspective, and that perspective makes him a person of peace.

I have appreciated his effort as well. As he flies around the court in practice and in matches trying to run down every ball. He’s a hard worker trying to tone up the parts of his game that cause problems. I have loved all his different contributions to this tennis team.

I am grateful for Jonah, the person that he is and his example for this team.

2 Corinthians 4:1 (The Message)
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes.

Senior Statement: Philip Krabill

Philip Krabill is an incredibly kind and dedicated leader. He has really come into his role as a team leader this season, and all of this flows out of his kindness and understanding for others. Philip has the heart of a listener, a problem solver, a mediator. He loves to hear all sides and take them in. He often has a kind word of understanding for someone that the rest of us are struggling to understand. This is the type of leader we love to follow.

And Philip has followed that up with great effort. Throughout the offseason this past year, he has wanted become a contributing member of the varsity. So he has taken lessons, opened up the courts, and played tons of tennis. When you watch Philip play, it’s obvious that the work he has put in and the listening that he has done really have given him an excellent tennis game.

Philip is also really fun to coach. When I come to the fence to talk with him he is frequently smiling. He always jogs over to quickly discuss the match with me. But my favorite thing that Philip does is that when we finish talking, he always says, “Thanks coach.” It’s not that he needs to thank me, but it is such an expression of who he is. Thankful, grateful, always looking to improve. This is also the type of leader we love to follow.

He’s also just fun in general. This summer at tennis camp, he was voted tennis team member with the best smile. He laughed the rest of the week as we pointed out his great smile each time he laughed. We also named a stretch after him, which he laughed at as well. This team appreciates him, and that’s because he is the type of leader we all love to follow. He is kind. Dedicated. Understanding. Hard working. Thankful. Fun.

I am grateful for who Philip is, and that he has shared his high school years with our team.

Romans 12:9-18
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn

with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Senior Statement: Liam Bradford

Liam has always been a talented tennis player. He has really awesome skills that many tennis players don’t have. He has the ability to shift from style to style within the same point, lofting a lob to the backhand and then spinning a forehand quickly down the line. The way that he is able to get so many powerful strokes back across the net is a testament to his skill. The fact that he is playing #1S this year and will end up with a better record than our #1S position last season also shows that he is a very skilled player.

But I’ve learned a lot about Liam as a competitor as well through the years. When he cares about what he is doing, he competes fiercely. And over the past several years, he has showed us that he cares about winning matches for our team. I’ll never forget his matches last year against Fremont and Blackhawk Christian, matches that came down to whether he won his long, three set match our not. And Liam played with great effort in those matches, pulling them out for us in two nail-biting tiebreaks. This season, at the Marian tournament, Liam played a player who he had lost to last season 6-1, 6-2. But this year, with the match resting on him, Liam pushed that same powerful player to 3 sets before succumbing. Their is great desire to win inside Liam.

Sometimes that desire to win has come out in frustration at himself, slamming a racket against his foot or hand. But this is actually something else that I have really respected in Liam. He works through these things and addresses the problem. Whether it is learning to redirect frustration or keep working on a new stroke, Liam has become a person who does one thing at a time to keep getting better. We talked about learning to hit his backhand, and throughout the year he has done it more and more. Anytime we talk at changeovers about new strategies, Liam is willing to try it, and puts it into practice.

And Liam has taught me a lot too. Liam has taught me the value of patience. When I am teaching, coaching and parenting, I say things and want to see them get better right away. With Liam, that hasn’t always been the case. But he has always starting working on things right away. He has made those things important. And because of that, he has matured into a wonderful player and person who can carry a lot of responsibility. It didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t happen in one conversation, and he hasn’t become fully matured and perfect yet... but he is always listening and taking steps in the right direction.

I am grateful for Liam, and the person that he has been on this team.

Ephesians 4:2-3
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Elkhart Central Match Report

This was a difficult match. It was a match where at every position we should have been able to compete, to have close matches. It was a match that was going to come down to which team could make the correct, aggressive shots in the big moments. Who could execute when it was game point, set point, etc.

In each match, we had moments that we needed to make those big shots. But for most of us those points didn't come in the first set. For Liam, Caleb, and #2D, they all started out there matches without much confidence and didn't have very many chances to play these big points. But, with much credit to those three positions, they completely changed perspective for the second set.

But Philip at #3S and Jonah and Nathan at #1D both had their chances to play big points come in the first set. Philip went back and forth with the Blazer's #3. As has been the case in most of Philip's matches, the points were being decided almost exclusively by whether Philip moved well and kept his aggressive shots in. In the first set, he kept his belief and confidence high and hit some great shots and won the set.

#1D went back and forth too. Down 4-3 they came to the pressure point of the set. This is the crucial time where somebody is going to win the set, and it usually comes by being the smart aggressor, or because the other side makes silly mistakes. #1D has become very good at not being the silly mistake making team, but in this match it was Elkhart Central who picked up their play, they found big shots down the line, simple volleys when we hung our returns too high above the middle of the net, and more. So we went down the set at #1D.

Back at the #1S, #2S, and #2D positions, we started the second sets out with much better confidence and belief. The matches were closer, in fact, in the second sets, both Liam and Tyson and Will (#2D) had chances to win their second sets and send them to a third.

Tyson and Will learned a really important lesson about doubles. They learned that it is important to put pressure on your opponents, even when you don't feel 100% confident in your strategy. Down in the set, I asked them to attack the net with abandon. To get there as fast as they could. So they did, and the match flipped around. Suddenly it was the Blazers who were making mistakes. It was Tyson and Will who were getting overheads and easy volleys. This led them to a 6-5 lead in the set on Will's serve. Again, it was an opportunity, but it required them to make the next level of aggressive shot to close out the set. Unfortunately, it was again the Blazers who had the answers. They forced a tiebreak and came up with the big shots in the big moments to win the match in the tiebreak.

Back at #1D, Jonah and Nathan began to play much better, but couldn't quite crack the code of the Blazers. They lost the second set despite putting in really good effort. That left Liam and Philip on the courts playing. Liam was down 5-2 in the second set while Philip was hanging right in there. Liam suddenly found his groove, mixing up the height and pace of the balls that he was hitting. Quickly he affected the rhythm of the Blazer #1, and got right back in the set. Liam also took a 6-5 lead, just as #2D had, and he too needed to hit the aggressive shot to finish out the set. Having ad-in, he had a sitter at the net. He tried a drop shot, but the ball hit the tape. This unfortunately woke up the aggressive side in his opponent, who tied up the match and then won it in the tiebreak.

No doubt, the lesson of this match was to stay smart and aggressive when in pressure situations. The player who does typically wins the match.

Which applies to Philip Krabill, our star who got the only win of the night for the Bruins. After losing the second set, it was decided that #3S would finish with a 10 point tiebreak. Philip took a big lead early in the tiebreak. He did this with great energy and great footwork. When Philip moves to the ball, he is tough to beat at #3S. His shots are just too good. And he took those shots and won the match with those shots. It was a really fun and upbeat way to end.

Braden Bohn continues to sizzle as the season goes on. He pulled in another great performance tonight, which set the pace for the Bruins to win 3 of the 4 singles matches. Josh Cartwright continued his solid freshman season, picking up another win as well. Jim Lyu accounted for the third win in singles, as his strokes continue to get better and more consistent.

At doubles, the ratio was flipped as we lost 3 of 4. The one win came from freshmen #3D, Austin and Matthew providing a very confident 8-3 win. The other matches were close, as Joseph and Aaron held a 5-4 lead in their set and Chris and Theo were right there as well. Our doubles teams at the JV seemed to suffer from a lot of what the varsity did. We need to take and make smart and aggressive shots to close out the games.

It was enough tonight to watch us battle back. It was enough that you prepared well. It was enough that you held your brothers high as they finished out their matches. That is enough.

You are brothers. You gathered around Philip to watch him finish out the varsity's only win. It was awesome to see the whole team move down to the bleachers right next to Philip's court to watch him finish the tiebreak. The whole team helped to give him that positive energy. You are brothers.

I am grateful for...
- not having to go back to Wilderness Experience too soon :-)
- for the ease of coaching you guys and your response to my coaching.
- to the earnest desire to do your best.
- for the comebacks we watched tonight.
- for those who are building momentum toward the end of the season.
- for laughter.
- for each of you, my players!

Lord God, I am thankful for the fight in this team. Give us joy and confidence to go with that effort. Let us feel secure in Your love as well, never outside of the transforming power that holds for us.

#1S - Liam Bradford - 1-6, 6-7 (1) - Philip Stutzman (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 0-6, 2-6 - Zack Pelletier (12)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 6-4, 4-6, (10-6) - Will Bryant (12)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 3-6, 2-6 - Dane Frieden (12)/Nathan Brekke (12)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 0-6, 6-7 (4) - Nathan Lindholm (12)/Abe Hill (12)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 8-2 - Spencer Dexter (10)
#2SJV - Josh Cartwright - 8-3 - Matt DeShone (9)
#3SJV - Jim Lyu - 9-8 (4) - Randall Delafuente (9)
#4SJV - Angel Torres - 0-8 - Chase Bontrager (10)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Aaron Shenk - 5-8 - Josh Reid (10)/Ben Honnick (12)
#2DJV - Chris Craw/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 3-8 - Sam Thomas (12)/Alexx Dreamer (11)
#3DJV - Matthew Dyck/Austin Shenk - 8-3 - Frankie Yeakey (10)/Grant Brekke (10)
#4DJV - Josiah Schlabach/Jacob Leininger - 2-6 - Frankie Yeakey (10)/Grant Brekke (10)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Blackhawk Christian Match Report

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In this match, we came out in the first sets with focus and energy. We came out with commitment to play the way that we had practiced. In every match, our opponents responded by raising their level of play. And in every match, we got nervous. And then in every match, we responded ourselves. This was a significant step forward in our tennis growth.

There's positives to point out in every match. So I'll start with the match that we lost. Philip controlled most of the match, and that is important to mark. He wasn't being pushed around the court, but instead was firmly hitting his shots. He just missed them sometimes. And sometimes didn't move with the same conviction. But I was especially proud of how he responded at the mid-point of the second set. Philip had lost a close first set in a tiebreak, and had slumped behind in the second set. It didn't look like he was going to keep competing. But instead, Philip picked himself up and fought back. By the end of the set, Philip had given himself several opportunities to take it to a third set. That was the type of fight against the situation that I love to see!

In #1D, the beauty was actually watching their attack of the net. Jonah has so improved this part of his game that it has become a strength of the team. I really loved watching them put away balls and get in attacking positions. There were parts of the match where these two got knocked onto their heels, but they kept coming back to the simple aggressive plays.

Similarly at #1S, this was one of my favorite Liam matches to watch because he continues to integrate the things we are talking about in practice. Today, he brought a bigger serve and a bigger backhand. No doubt, one of my favorite points of the match was when Liam's opponent approached to his backhand and Liam smoked a topspin backhand down the line. But in Liam's second set his focus began to slip. I began to get worried because it looked like Liam was abandoning the aggressiveness that had helped him build a comfortable lead. But in the end, Liam reenergized his feet, spun some forehands and put pressure on by coming to the net. It was really a fun match.

But it was the #2's that really responded the best to self-imposed difficulties tonight. Both Caleb and Will and Tyson took their first sets with relative ease. But in the second sets, they were faced with a lot of difficulty as they had to face self-doubt and the poor play that causes.

Caleb began to falter when up 3-0 in the second set. First, his serve became shaky and he threw in a few double faults. Then, his strokes suddenly didn't seem as easy. From up 3-0, it was suddenly 3-3. Then back and forth it went the rest of the match, Caleb not holding his serve at any point. His opponent was shaky as well, but developing confidence as Caleb had stopped being able to find attacking balls. Finally, Caleb found himself down 6-5. At fence, I told him simply that he had to stop imagining the worst and realize that the best was also possible. I told him he was going to win this service game and dominate the tiebreak. I knew it.

I don't know what changed, but from there out Caleb did dominate. He easily served out his game to force the tiebreak, and then charged through the tiebreak only losing 1 point. His win also sealed the team victory, which let me exhale and enjoy the remaining matches a bit more. That comeback from a dark mental place was impressive, and truly the mark of growth. I loved it!

#2D had to do the same thing. Faced with opponents who took the pace off the ball, Will and Tyson started doing the exact same thing. Unfortunately, they were much more timid, and their movement suffered as they got more and more nervous in the set. They started with the lead, but the most they pressed, the less they moved and the weaker they hit the ball. They lost the second set and had to go to a third set tiebreak.

But in the tiebreak, they responded. Will and Tyson didn't play perfect, but they played with purpose. That made such a difference. They didn't hit shots just to get them in, they played shots to win the point. Tyson hit some great serves. Will hit a couple of overheads. Leading 7-6, Will served 2 big points to extend the lead. It was a wonderful response.

And that was a great theme. When things go bad, it is reasonably and even probable to expect that they will go better again. Keep energy and focus high - and they probably will.

It was a short JV match tonight, but well played. Joseph and Aaron racked up their second win in a row at #1DJV, and Braden added his second win at #1SJV. Both positions faced teams that were less skilled and less confident, but this can often be a problem for JV players. It makes them lethargic (especially after an hour and a half bus ride :-) We were not lethargic, and we simply played the way that we've been practicing. Aaron and Joseph came to the net, settled balls into the court and put the pressure on. Braden used his weapons to pressure his opponent. In the end, both positions won fairly easily.

It was enough tonight that we made the effort to imagine our brighter possibilities rather than only the darker ones. It was enough that we once again realized that it isn't enough to know the right thing to do, we actually have to do it. It was enough that we then made ourselves do it.

You are brothers when you simply enjoy being together. When you get excited about things together. Tonight, the bus ride home was fun. Philip and Joseph were discussing current ideas and social issues. We stopped to get ice cream. We teased each other about the Cardinals and the Cubs and who is going out before the playoffs and in the first round. We swatted mosquitoes. We had an ease with one another that is smile inducing. You are brothers.

I am grateful for...
- the beautiful moon over the forests and cornfields as we drove home.
- a mild night to play tennis.
- our responses to adverse situations today.
- the long drive and the time to think and talk.
- Braden, Joseph, and Aaron's simple JV wins.
- for ET Sundaes and Brownie Tornados.

God, we are not ever finished products. It one of the things that is so hard about being human. But have have successes, and I pray that You can help us rejoice in them. When we take time to listen to another's feeling or point of view, when we refrain revenge, when we react with positivity to challenge - these are all places that we grow. May we rejoice in that grace of Yours. Amen.

#1S - Liam Bradford - 6-1, 6-1 - Zach Kaufman (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 6-0, 7-6 (1) - Jimmy Bunner (10)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 6-7 (4), 5-7 - Bear Roberts (11)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 6-1, 6-3 - Aaron Jentgen (11)/Colton Romines (10)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 6-2, 3-6, (10-6) - Wes Tanner (11)/Ryan Neff (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 8-2 - Tiago Freitas (11)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Aaron Shenk - 8-3 - Caleb Gibson (10)/Kelson Volkert (10)

Monday, September 10, 2018

NorthWood Match Report

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I'm writing this match report on a Monday. The match took place last Friday. And taking the weekend before writing the post has made me forget some of the details, but it has also helped me put the match in perspective.

Some Stats:
- NorthWood is the #8 ranked team in NE Indiana.
- NorthWood defeated us 5-0 last year, and returned their top 3 players.
- NorthWood's #2S from last year MOVED DOWN to #3.
- Last year we lost 1-7 to the NorthWood JV, most of whom returned.

So, by all reasonable measurements, NorthWood is a very good team. And we competed against them with confidence. We believed we could be in more matches. We were disappointed to lose points and games. We realize that this is the direction that we want to move in.

We aren't there yet, but each match showed glimpses.

Liam played several long games where he was in control of the points, where he was able to get to the net for big volley putaways, where he was able to find backhand passing shots. Caleb moved really well in his second set and began to find the ball he needs to compete as the match went on. Philip was in control of the first set, moving well and forcing his opponent deep into the court.

Nathan and Jonah confidently attacked the net against the big hitting Panthers. Jonah even got a couple big overheads within the match. Will and Tyson weren't put off their game at all, playing a very competitive game and forcing errors from their opponents by being aggressive at the net and keeping the simple balls in the court.

Yes, we have work to do to make these glimpses become our normal. But at the beginning of the season, when we took the court against Jimtown, we struggled to even see these glimpses. We are moving forward, and sometimes we forget how much work it takes. We'll come back with a focus today on doing the work.

The JV match was really interesting. We played several really good doubles matches. We struggled to finish off our singles matches.

Aaron, Joseph, Theo and Chris played doubles matches to be admired. Playing against some experienced Panther doubles team, they took exactly what they'd learned from practice and put it into play. Namely, they kept the ball in play and controlled the net. It was great to see both Chris and Aaron reign in their shots and see them landed softly cross court while they put pressure pressure on by coming to the net.

Both positions went deep into the pro set. In fact, their matches both lasted longer than the majority of the varsity matches. In the end, it was the pressure they put on by attacking the net that broke through for victories. Sometimes we forget that even if we don't finish the point at the net, our presence creates pressure. It did for sure in the JV doubles.

That was true in the final two JV doubles matches as well. Angel played extremely well at the net in his doubles match with Jacob Leininger, and Jacob played really well from the baseline. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well when the places were reversed. Because Angel was struggling from the baseline and Jacob at the net, the match stayed close and went to a tiebreak. The tiebreak was close as well, but it was a few more nervous errors that swung the tide to the Panthers.

Sam and Josiah continued to play well too. Consistency was the thing that was just a little off for them, and then the ability to finish points at the net. NorthWood was able to get a couple of volleys from their team. We didn't get as many. That makes a difference.

In the singles matches, we played well, but couldn't find aggressive enough shots to end the point. Our singles players need to become more comfortable on the attack, and maybe that will be part of practice next time out. Attacking can mean coming to the net, hitting a strong ball to the backhand, dropping a ball in front of your opponent and then hitting a confident passing shot or lob... and we need to get better at all those things for singles.

So, the work we did was good in the JV matches. I can't wait to work on finishing off that final ball, that will be a fun, aggressive drill day :-)

It was enough to see the glimpses. It was enough to eat Uncrustables and candy bars together. It was enough that you guys continue to care. We are entering a stretch of the season where we will have a real chance to compete in most of our remaining 9 matches, and so that continued faith is important. In fact, the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. That is enough.

You are brothers when you listen to each other. Tonight, I saw singles players listen to me and call Andrew and I over to the fence at many change overs. I saw doubles players listen to the encouragement from their teammates. I saw a lot of positive interaction. I saw your belief and excitement about improvement. You are brothers when you encourage each other, you are brothers when you receive that encouragement.

I am grateful for...
- our parents support of the program, through food, transportation, attendance at matches and so much more.
- the weather turning cooler.
- another chance for improvement.
- another chance for encouragement.
- another day with each of you.

Lord, we are moving into the last part of the season. We only have two weeks of team matches left before Sectional. I can't believe how fast the season has gone. But it has been one well used by our team. Help continue to build each other up. Help us to raise our effort level as we sprint toward the finish line. Help us to smile. May You be our focus, because You are the One who gives us our worth. You are the One who gives us our identity. You are the One who gives us all that we have.

#1S - Liam Bradford - 1-6, 1-6 - Wes Troyer (11)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 1-6, 2-6 - Ben Vincent (10)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 5-7, 0-6 - Landon Holland (11)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 1-6, 0-6 - Trajan Schwartz (12)/Jack Wysong (11)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 2-6, 3-6 - Grant Topping (12)/Dawson Bley (12)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 4-8 - Chase Horner (11)
#2SJV - Josh Cartwright - 2-8 - Nate Clickovich (11)
#3SJV - Matthew Dyck - 6-8 - Brad Demitruk (10)
#4SJV - Austin Shenk - 2-8 - Andrew McCoy (10)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Aaron Shenk - 8-5 - Zach Parisi (12)/Bryce Harner (11)
#2DJV - Chris Craw/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 9-7 - Andrew McCoy (10)/Treyton Martin (10)
#3DJV - Angel Torres/Jacob Leininger - 8-9 (4) - Sean Hogan (12)/Alex Bowers (10)
#4DJV - Sam Setiawan/Josiah Schlabach - 2-8 - Wes Steiner (9)/Karson Kirby (9)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Westview Match Report

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This night was hot and humid and against a very competitive Warrior team. It didn't bring out the best in many of us, including me, the coach. We had great effort, we hit some great shots, but we struggled with our attitude and our plan. As a result, we couldn't keep our level of play high in pressure situations, and lost the match 4-1.

At #1S, Liam struggled to find ways to attack the Warrior #1S player, Kurtis Davis. Davis has the best record of any player Liam has played yet this year. Davis had very controlled strokes and usually found the right tactical answers for anything Liam threw at him. To me, it looked like Liam needed to be more aggressive, but Liam was tentative in doing that. Toward the end of the match, Liam took some bigger chances, which moved the match in the right direction, but it was too late to make a full comeback.

At #2S, Caleb really came out energetic like we talked about and playing with confidence. He built a first set lead behind biting topspin balls and attacking the net. But as the set wore on, Westview #2S Justin Schwartz began to hit more confident shots. As he made a comeback, Caleb's shots lost their punch and fell shorter and shorter. Caleb fought to take a 6-5 lead, but was taken to a tiebreak. After taking a 4-3 lead and building up some energy, Caleb saw Schwartz finish out the tiebreak calmly. In the next set, Caleb had trouble finding more energy in the heat, and lost in two sets. As coach, I couldn't find the right words or attitude or plan to help in this match either.

At #3S, Philip struggled with sickness. Leading 4-1, Philip actually threw up a little bit on the back of the court. Going to help him, he had already started playing again, saying that he was feeling better now. But it didn't look like he felt better. He soon was tied in his match and headed to a tiebreak. Of course, his tiebreak was happening right as Caleb's was happening. But Philip came out on top with some confident serves and deep topspin forehands. In the second set, Philip cruised to a 3-0 lead before throwing up again on the side of the court. Now, he said, he felt much better, much lighter, and then he finished off his second set with a win. What a crazy night for Philip.

So, the match ended up coming down to the doubles. Could we pull off victories in both? Well, both teams had good parts of the match and bad parts. Unfortunately, the bad parts came at crucial points of the match.

#1D started out well in their match. They were confident, they were attacking, they made the simple plays. Westview responded by sneaking to the middle of the net and taking away the simplest plays. And at the end of the first set, we didn't respond well to that. We continued to loft soft balls across the center of the net. But in the second set, we patrolled the net. We found the aggressive shots. We served well and moved well. We forced a third set. But in that third set, we hoped to win instead of keeping up the shots that got us there. So, again we were lofted balls to the center of the net. We went down 5-2 in the set. Then I was really proud of how we recovered, getting back into the match by winning the next two games and putting pressure on our opponents. But in the end, we couldn't finish off the comeback.

#2D was a crazy match, with each side grabbing momentum at different points. The first set was all Westview as we had difficulty finding the court with our shots. A lot of that was our anticipatory movement. In between shots we would get so flat footed and static. In the second set, we moved. We got on our toes, we kept moving within the points. Our shots followed, striking balls down the line, finding good lobs, controlling the net, dominating our serves. In the third set, we got nervous and started standing still again. We weren't ready for the shots that came back at us from our opponents. We got down 3-0, then 5-0, in the third set. Down 5-0, we resumed our movement. We started to make a comeback, but the hole was a little too deep.

As for myself, I was too frustrated watching us make the same mistakes. It was hard to not be negative, and I found myself giving in to that. But we don't have to give into that. We can find the attitude and the plan that will make for epic comebacks and passionate victories. And we'll move toward that together.

Truth be told, another coaching deficiency in this match was that I didn't make it around to the JV matches nearly enough. I saw enough to know a couple of things...

1. This wasn't our best match.
2. We didn't move very well.
3. We were ready to learn and move forward.

Braden Bohn played one of his best matches of the season at #1SJV. He had finished off his match against Triton with some really great play, and he carried that into the match against Westview. Playing at the top of the JV, he swept to an 8-0 victory and was off the court quickly. I really liked his controlled aggression.

At our other positions, we struggled to move in the heat and keep the ball in the court. I'm not sure what caused our tentative nature, but we just didn't really even look like ourselves. We were missing the passion and energy that we often bring.

There were a couple of really bright spots, the freshmen really working hard and getting better at all sorts of things. Matthew's serve is coming around, Austin's serve is gaining consistency, Jacob's strokes are going in more and more, Josiah is continuing to learn where to position himself, Josh works hard within his matches.

But nothing was really working, and we didn't really find ways to make it better within the match. However, that is what practice is for, right?

It was enough to come with effort tonight. It was enough that we are ready to come with effort tomorrow. It was enough to have that base of desire to start from.

You are my brothers. After the match, I realized how poorly I had modeled the hopeful and positive attitude that I want you guys to take on the court. So I emailed out a note acknowledging that, saying sorry. I got an email back in four minutes saying, "No problem Matt. You are enough." My brothers, that was so soul refreshing. I got another email talking about dealing with frustration. I love that we really get to do this thing together. You are my brothers.

I am grateful for...
- your effort.
- your desire.
- your nerves.
- your misplayed shots.
- your attempts to improve.
- your successes.
- your failures.
- your movement.
- your love of each other.
- your encouragement.
- your forgiveness.
- each one of you.

Lord, thanks for people doing things together. Bring us together again!

#1S - Liam Bradford - 0-6, 2-6 - Kurtis Davis (11)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 6-7 (4), 1-6 - Justin Schwartz (11)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 7-6 (3), 6-3 - Kendall Schwartz (9)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 4-6, 6-1, 4-6 - Brandon Eash (12)/Elijah Hostetler (9)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 1-6, 6-3, 1-6 - Will Clark (10)/Brady Hostetler (10)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 8-0 - Brennan Beachy (9)
#2SJV - Josh Cartwright - 3-8 - Micah Yoder (11)
#3SJV - Aaron Shenk - 0-8 - Isaac Rogers (9)
#4SJV - Jacob Leininger - 0-8 - Micah Yoder (11)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 1-8 - Ryan Klaassen (11)/Anthony Miller (11)
#2DJV - Christopher Craw/Matthew Dyck - 5-8 - Ryan Klaassen (11)/Anthony Miller (11)
#3DJV - Austin Shenk/Josiah Schlabach - 1-8 - Brennan Beachy (9)/Isaac Rogers (9)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Facebook Post: Luke Hostetter, Sept. 3, 2018
It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since playing tennis alongside these awesome guys at Bethany Christian Schools. And getting to celebrate by going to the US Open for the first time was absolutely electric. Seeing that this team still has the same passion and energy as I remember from the good ol' days will never be forgotten. Thanks for the memories!

P.S. Happy birthday from all of us to our coach, Matt Miller, the man who always taught us to take "serious tennisly."

What this means to me...
These guys were the first Bethany Christian tennis team to win the Sectional title. Luke was the anchor at #1S, but this entire team worked hard together to accomplish something great. And in doing so, they were really the first team to buy in to what I had hoped Bethany Christian tennis could be: Brothers, taking care of each other, chasing down their very best. 

This group provided some of my very favorite tennis memories...
- Coming back and beating Fairfield 3-2 in the first round of Sectional after losing 5-0 just 10 days before that, with Jonny and Luke winning in 3 set comebacks.
- Johnny and Jeremy winning a third set tiebreak in the Sectional Semi-Final over Goshen to give us a 3-2 team victory.
- Jeremy's dad defending Luke's honor from a disrespectful fan at the Warsaw Invitational
- Daniel and Mikey's comeback from down 1-5 in the third set to advance past Fairfield in the Sectional.
- Jared's incredible improvement between his junior and senior year.
- Beating Penn 4-1 as they opened up their new courts and we beat them badly.
- Watching Johnny and Jeremy play with such passion against NorthWood in the Sectional final, providing us with the clinching point.

But even more, it is awesome that this group still remains tight. Friendships and relationships that you can count on are the purpose of life. Tennis is just a rallying point around which to build. I love that these guys built around their passion for the game, but still love each other like family. I wish I could have made it to the US Open to hang with them. 

I hope you guys dive into that. I hope that you will forge relationships within this tennis realm that last. I hope that ten years from now you using whatever technology replaces Snapchat to communicate about the results of the US Open 2028. I hope that you go to each other's weddings, visit each other in big cities, and more.

Thanks, team of 2008. I hope your US Open time was great!

If you want to read more about this team, check out the 2007 and 2008 reviews, or even better click on this link to Match Memories.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Triton Match Report

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This match was one of differences, swings and shifts of momentum, and in general, it was just much more fun than our other matches this week. In some matches, we played some our best tennis of the season. In others, we found ourselves in difficult positions because of our opponent or because of our nervousness, or both. Both of those situations, playing our best and struggling through, offer us great chances to learn.

At #1D, Jonah and Nathan put together one of their most complete matches of the season. Both players were at the top of their games, playing the net well and keeping points alive from the baseline. I can't count the number of times they escaped pressure with a well timed lob, or created pressure by making a simple shot and pushing forward to the net. I feel like of any of our positions, this team has taken early difficult matches and used them to get better. This match was really impressive. It was even more fun to watch the way it ended, with Jonah popping over a volley and then setting himself up for a simple overhead smash.

Another position that was at its best today was #3S. Braden Bohn picked up his first varsity victory of the year, and he did it by playing his best tennis. That included confident forehands and backhands and some really good and consistent serving. Of course, that all didn't start happening until after Braden was down 4-2 in the first set. Braden was simply being a little bit too impatient, and he couldn't get a good rhythm in the match against his consistent opponent's looped shots. But from that point, Braden got into it. He went on to win 10 of the next 11 games, taking the first set 6-4 and then the second 6-1. It was really good tennis.

A couple of our other positions started that way. Both Liam at #1S and Will and Tyson at #2D started out with dominant, confident tennis. They played with energy and movement. They played with belief. Liam covered the short balls and controlled points with his forehand. Will and Tyson struck great returns and dominated the net. Both positions sailed to easy first sets. But the second sets were much different.

Liam again played a mirror version of himself. In fact, my 10 year old son ran up and said that Liam's
opponent reminded him of Liam from last year. And that was exactly right. Liam had to keep his energy up and run down some more balls, but in the second set that didn't happen. Liam lost his weapon as well, sending too many shots spinning into the net. Moving into a third set, Liam regrouped and found his way to attack - moving his opponent around. Last year, Liam may not have been able to recover, but this year he trusted his strength. Soon, he found gaps and hit through them for the win.

#2D took a 5-2 lead in the second set and looked as if they were cruising for an easy victory. But, no, storming back came the Trojans. They broke Will's serve. Held. Broke Tyson's serve. Suddenly it was 5-5. In these games, the Bruins were tentative and not smart about their plan. The Trojans took advantage of both. Will and Tyson took the lead again at 6-5 and Will was going to serve for the match. We took a 40-15 lead and had 2 match points. The first saw the Trojans smack a winner up the line, a really nice shot. On the next, Will served and volleyed, and the ball sat up for a putaway. But Will hit it in the net.

Disappointed, the next two points went to Triton, and #2D went to a tiebreak. I was worried, but gave them the encouragement and focus I thought we might need. All we can control is attitude, effort and plan. And boy, did Will and Tyson respond. After losing the first point, the #2D Bruins won six straight points. Many of these were behind really good serving from the guys, especially from Will. We also had two net points that we were able to win. At 6-1, we hit two returns into the net. But leading 6-3, Tyson hit an excellent curving "slider" serve, which forced a return error.

This never-say-die, comeback-from-disappointment attitude was awesome to see. It should bring Will and Tyson a lot of confidence. They faced down struggles, and they succeeded.

Another position of facing down struggles was #3S. Philip seemed a bit low on energy, and his opponent really put the pressure on Philip, often attacking the net or finding other ways to make Philip's shots seem to mean more. Philip definitely didn't have his "A" game, but he never gave in. The match was decided by one break in each set, Philip making his Triton opponent earn each point. But in the end, junior Jared Bules did earn the victory.

So, it was a day of facing challenges, mostly succeeding. Let's file this response in our brains and allow it to encourage us to swing freely in other situations like this.

This was the same as the varsity match. Some great play, some facing our weaknesses.

At #1S, Josh Cartwright played great. He started out down and not able to match the pace of his senior opponent's serve. But soon, he found that hitting his topspin forehand deeper put more pressure on his opponent. As Josh switched to this more neutral ball, his opponent had trouble keeping the ball in. And Josh got an excellent victory.

#2S, Matthew Dyck did it again. He got himself into a pressure situation but delivered the win with his signature stroke. Early in the match, he found his forehand not working too well. It drifted long too often. So we slowed it down, increased the spin, and Matthew picked up his determination. He was able to run so many balls down and hit some great deep forehands. Despite trailing 5-3, Matthew recovered to take an 8-6 win.

#1D played excellent tennis as well. They served well and volleyed well and just played solid. In fact, they were probably the only team on the day to have a pretty even and consistent match. They just fine for the whole match. It was awesome to listen to Theo and Jospeh encourage each other though. I love it when doubles team are really "in it" together.

Jim played #3S, and just couldn't hold serve. When he'd get them in, he'd win the rallies. If he missed, well, then the point didn't even get started. Austin and Chris experienced a similar thing at #2D. Both positions never held serve... but broke almost every time.

So, we have our plan, we know the weaknesses we need to change. Not just work on, but things where we need to make significant change. I can't wait to get on that!

It was enough to grit it out. Sometimes, we want to play our prettiest tennis all the time. We expect that every stroke will be just like we practiced it. Everything will go as we want. But that's not reality, not even possible. It is enough to stick with it in matches like that, to figure out ways to make it work. That was enough today.

So much was weird this week. Teams with only 5 players, JV matches against each other, long nights getting ready for a special benefit concert, opponents that didn't offer much resistance, weather that was frustrating to play in, weather that we couldn't play in, a match on Labor Day weekend with a morning start time. Through all that, you stuck together. You watched US Open in my room at lunch, during rain outs, or while waiting. You played spur of the moment matches because another team didn't have enough to play us. And so much more. You do it for each other because you are brothers.

I am grateful for...
- the first half of the season.
- a 5-5 record.
- all that we have learned in our losses.
- all that we are learning by winning close ones.
- the way that we believed in ourselves when things got tight.
- how Tyson and Will jumped out to a 6-1 tiebreak lead.
- Joseph and Theo and their energy together.
- Chris and Austin trying to make things work.
- Matthew's continual calm under pressure.
- Liam's excellence in 3rd sets.
- God's grace and peace.

Lord God, we are at the mid-point of our competition season. We are not completely satisfied about where we are, how we hit, how we've played - but we are learning to be at peace with the way You've created us and how important we are to You. Give us the perspective of Your love. Help us to see each other as You do. Help us to see ourselves as You do. In Jesus name, amen!

#1S - Liam Bradford - 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 - John Gardner (10)
#2S - Philip Krabill - 4-6, 4-6 - Jared Bules (11)
#3S - Braden Bohn - 6-4, 6-1 - Connor Large (9)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 6-3, 6-2 - Carter Kuntz (12)/Chase Butler (12)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 6-0, 7-6 (3) - Grant Eib (12)/Tyler Heckaman (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Josh Cartwright - 6-3 - Trevor Miller (12)
#2SJV - Matthew Dyck - 8-6 - Gavin Greer (11)
#3SJV - Jim Lyu - 4-6 - Trevor Miller (12)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 6-2 - Chase Whybrew (11)/Gavin Butler (9)
#2DJV - Christopher Craw/Austin Shenk - 4-5 (rain) - Chase Whybrew (11)/Gavin Butler (9)

Friday, August 31, 2018

South Bend Clay Match Report

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It was a solid night for the Bruins tennis team. After really struggling on Tuesday to adjust to different styles of opponents, to the wind, to so many things... tonight we adjusted quickly and played really solid tennis. It added up to a quick 5-0 win over South Bend Clay.

Liam Bradford had a match similar to Tuesday, a player who played a lot like him except for his Colonel opponent had a really big serve. But Liam excels at returning big serves, so that weapon didn't hurt Liam very much. Instead, it was Liam who was able to do damage, again whipping shots into the backhand corner to win many points.

At #1D and #2D, we really tried to start playing to our strengths. I loved seeing Nathan and Will finish off a lot of points at the net. I loved seeing Jonah get his overhead and volley going as well. Probably my two favorite points were watching people take confident shots in areas where they've struggled in the past. Jonah got a low volley and instead of trying to finish it for a winner, he adjusted and popped it over into the service box. As the Clay player scooped it up, Jonah readjusted his feet and put away the overhead. A simple play that led to an aggressive one. In #2D, Tyson lifted a lob over the Clay net man, and then a ball was lobbed up over Will. Will took three confident steps backward, got under the ball, and rocketed an overhead cross court. It was so good to see!

#2S and #3S kind of were the opposite of each other. At #3S, Philip started off very strong. He was attacking, placing balls where he wanted and eating up any mid court balls. He also had very few errors. At #2S, Caleb started off shaky with a lot of errors and missed serves. He was feeling some frustration too at the slow pace of play. But as Caleb forgave himself for that, he really began to come on. After trailing 2-1, Caleb won 11 straight games.

Philip's focus maybe slipped a bit in the second set. He was on cruise control and then started to miss a few more serves and shots. These compounded into his loss of a couple games. Still, he finished things off well and didn't let it get too tight. I was really proud of the work that he put in.

So, another win is in the books for the varsity. I can see the path forward for our improvement, and I can't wait to win a close match. That day is going to be so much fun!

The JV match was really short tonight. Christopher Craw and Angel Torres played doubles for a 6-0 victory. There isn't too much to say other than I felt like Chris served well and Angel didn't let anything go. He competed all the way through the points. Plus, now Angel is undefeated to begin his senior season. That's fun!

Since there were no other JV matches, we played a Blue v. White Scrimmage. That was pretty fun, as all the JV players got to play 2 out of 3 sets, even though the sets only went to 4. There were some pretty competitive matches. Josh Cartwright and Aaron Shenk played contrasting styles, Josh on defense and Aaron on offense. That match went to a second set tiebreak. Matthew Dyck relied on consistency and one solid weapon while Jim Lyu went for big shots. Angel Torres and Sam Setiawan got better as the match went on, but were foiled by the more consistent freshmen, Josiah Schlabach and Jacob Leininger. And Joseph Mounsithiraj and Theo Siemens-Rhodes showed great net presence in their victory. So, even though they didn't get to play the other team, each JV guy had a chance to get better.

It was enough to have fun with you guys. Middle-Middle was a blast, slamming balls and moving quickly as we waited on Clay to arrive. Relaxing and watching us play to our strengths without too many nerve wracking moments was fun. It was a night to enjoy tennis and that was enough.

You are brothers when you support each other. Even though the other team lacked a JV, it showed me the commitment of so many of the JV players that you stayed around and supported the varsity. That's super cool, and it makes our program unique. And you got to eat some delicious food after the match. That time committed to each other makes you brothers.

I  am grateful for...
- the beautifully cool weather the last 2 days.
- the shade of our pine trees when we play.
- the generosity of the parents who provide us with delicious meals.
- the plan of improvement that I see in front of us.
- the understanding of players who didn't get to play tonight.
- the effort in the JV Blue-White match.
- simple tennis.
- dinks and lobs.
- Middle-Middle.
- Nathan's serves :-)
- Caleb's ability to let go and move forward.
- Jonah's willingness to commit to the net.
- so much more...

God, may we continue to live in the joy of Your grace. You provide us with so much that we need, and when we work for each other, we experience so much joy. Give us that perspective. Thanks!

#1S - Liam Bradford - 6-1, 6-0 - Johnny Anderson (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 6-2, 6-0 - Michael Dukes (12)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 6-0, 6-2 - Shaedyn Springer (11)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 6-0, 6-1 - Benjamin Aberegg (11)/Braydon Dukes (11)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 6-0, 6-0 - Jarod VandeZander (11)/Nathan Duszynski (9)

Junior Varsity
#1DJV - Christopher Craw/Angel Torres - 6-0 - Marquise Dawning (10)/Zondre Riles (9)

Blue v. White
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 1-4, 0-4 - Andrew Buschert
#2SJV - Aaron Shenk 2-4, 4-5 (5) - Josh Cartwright
#3SJV - Jim Lyu - 1-4, 2-4 - Matthew Dyck
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 4-0, 4-1 - Christopher Craw/Austin Shenk
#2DJV - Angel Torres/Sam Setiawan - 1-4, 3-5 - Josiah Schlabach/Jacob Leininger

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Devo #4: Everyone is Wrong, Everyone is Loved

"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." 
Galatians 5:6

Devotional Review
1. What is faith? Faith is returning again to what is important, and that return is enough.

2. How might that express itself in love? By reminding each other of some core truths...
These have been the messages of truth.
You are enough.
You are a brother.
You have so much to be grateful for.

3. How does that matter? It takes the pressure off. It's not about what we do, what we have, or what others think of us.

How to Move Forward
So we have started accepted the truths of Jesus. We acknowledge that I am enough just as I am. We know we are part of God's family, no needing to earn it. We see the blessings God has already given us. For some of us, the next temptation can be to simply say: Alright, then why do anything to improve? Why put any more effort in? Why not just do whatever?

Everyone is Wrong
I saw a tweet the other day from a fairly famous pastor, Timothy Keller. It started like this: "The gospel: In its view, everyone is wrong...

Looking around at society today, I notice something. We have a hard time recognizing that acceptance and agreement aren't the same thing. We are completely accepted. We can't do anything to earn more love from God. We been given a lot of grace and blessing. But that doesn't mean we are doing everything right. 

Let's put it in tennis terms. Arguably, the best player I've ever coached was Nathan Brendle. His senior season he lost a nervous first match and then won 21 straight. He once lost the first point of a match, and then won the next 48 points straight. He was pretty incredible. And I loved him, like I love all of you. 

Early in his career, he double faulted all the time. Like, one time I kept statistics in a match, and he had 26 double faults in a 2 set win. That's like 2-3 double faults every game that he served. He didn't do it well. There was something wrong.

We all have something like that in our game. We are tentative, we double fault, we are scared of our backhand, we hate going to the net. Whatever. Sometimes, we want to argue that it is okay. That really it doesn't need fixing. But to be the best player we can be, it does need some work. 

Life is like that too... we snap back in anger too often, we are impatient, we are too demanding of others, we are downright mean, we are lazy, we procrastinate, we quit when we aren't able to figure it out right away... maybe you see yourself in there.

So, there are areas to improve.

Everyone is Loved
But Timothy Keller's tweet went on: "The gospel: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved..."

This second part is SO IMPORTANT. We have to acknowledge that we all are wrong about things. To refuse to acknowledge that is just lying to ourselves. However, despite of all those things, we cannot be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-38). 

If we don't get it right today, there's no shame. Everybody in the whole world messed something up today. Instead, we have faith in the love of God. We come back to the acceptance in God. The beauty of God is that God's acceptance isn't based on whether you got it all right today. God's acceptance is based on the fact that you are God's child. And you can't escape that.

Just like on the team, you can't escape being a brother. When Nate Brendle was missing all those serves, he'd be afraid to talk to me sometimes. When I'd come to the fence, he'd turn his face away and say I know I gotta get the ball higher on the toss. He'd insist that he'd do better next time, he'd apologize for being so bad. He'd get red-faced when he lost a match that he felt he should have won. But you know what... we loved him. Because he was our brother.

We didn't need the double faults figured out RIGHT NOW! It was enough for us for him to come back and work on them. It was enough for us that he recognized the fault and wanted to work. But even if he didn't, we were honored to ride out the service game, the match, the season, his whole career with him. Because he was brother. 

Sure, you've got things wrong. But the gospel (the good news) is that because you are loved, you have the space and the grace to work things out. Everybody works things out and different speeds, because we are really knots of wrongs all kinked together. Sometimes we get one loop undone only to realize there are so many more. But God has grace for us, and sees us as loved right now, while we try to work it out. 

The Result
So just because I'm not yelling at you all the time doesn't mean you've got it all figured out. Instead, it is grace and love and saying - you'll get there. You'll get there. And even while you aren't there yet, as a person or as a player, I'm willing to stand next to you and let you know that I love who you are.

Nate worked it out eventually. By his senior year, he relaxed into being a great teammate. He reached out and coached others on their serves. And he began to have some perspective on what was important. As he relaxed into that, he kept working on his serve, but with much less pressure. And double faults weren't something that plagued him during his All-District senior season. He had relaxed into the good news that everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. Coming back to the work, but doing it with grace, and doing it together.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Prairie Heights Match Report

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When we were supposed to leave the school, Will's locker wouldn't unlock so he could get his tennis stuff out. My mom and kids accidentally got locked out of our house and I had to run home to let them in. The shed to the tennis courts was locked and I had to run back and open it. Locks were all working against us, so we got a late start toward the match.

As we pulled out onto Main Street, the traffic was backed up past the school. We slowly slogged our way through town and out to US 20, only to be met by a detour in Lagrange. We pulled into the match in a hurry.

We blustered out onto the courts, and found out that we would be playing slightly different positions than we thought, because the Panthers had 5 eligible players rather than 6. We knew from seeing previous results that Prairie Heights had lost to Central Noble, who had lost to Fremont, who we had beaten 5-0. So we were feeling the pressure of playing a match that we "should" win.

Oh, and it was really windy. Like, blowing our service tosses around and pushing normal forehands long type of wind.

It was a prime situation for distraction. For slow feet. For sleepwalking our way through matches. For getting drawn into close matches and potentially getting beat.

And in spite of these difficulties, our guys responded well. #1D of Nathan and Jonah did a great job of navigating the windy conditions, making simple shots and playing well within the margins of the court. They also took advantage by taking control of the net, and that allowed them to sail to an easy victory.

At the singles positions, both Will and Caleb started their matches really well. Will had great control of his shots and early in the match, his opponent did not. Will also mixed in coming to the net, and was able to force errors as his opponent tried to pass him.

Caleb struggled a bit with his serve in the wind, but was able to adjust. His groundstrokes and footwork were strong, as playing in the wind necessitates quick and nimble steps. His strong strokes forced errors from his opponent.

Liam didn't start as strong as he played against his mirror image. The Panther #1 had every page of Liam's playbook, getting forward to drop shots and playing strong slices through the wind just like Liam. He combined that with a strong serve, and was able to take a 5-2 lead on Liam in the first set. But then Liam began to pick up his own game quite a bit. He remembered to use his weapon, a whipped forehand that he has great control over. Using this weapon, Liam got back into the first set, but Panther junior Logan Nutt was able to close it out.

Caleb and Will closed off their first sets too, but then fell into the second set lull. Liam did the opposite. With his game plan now in front of him, Liam executed very well. His #1S opponent could not match his spinning forehand, especially when Liam could direct his second serve returns into the backhand side. Combine that with a couple of killer volleys and Liam had things pointed in the right direction. Though the games continued to be close, Liam's forehand was the difference at the end of games and Liam collected a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.

At #2S and #3S, Caleb had a long game to start the second set. He missed a lot of forehands and serves, but was able to find a way to win it. From there, the rest of the set went quickly. Will's second set was much closer, as his opponent became a human wall, sending shot after shot back to Will. When Will moved confidently and swung through, he found himself in control of the points and winning most of them. He also helped himself out with some great volleys. He was able to close out the win too.

Liam's match wrapped things up for us and we got back on the bus. The wind had died down. The bus's locks weren't possessed. Traffic was clear as we headed home. We sang our "Sarasponda" victory song.

There was no JV match :-(

It was enough to watch you face distraction and laziness and decide not to give in. In so many cases, we are tempted to just give in to distraction. To just give in to "I'm too tired." But you guys created energy tonight by moving, by staying hopeful and positive. It was enough to not give in.

You are brothers because you adjust for each other. Tonight was tough, because we thought that PH had 6 available players, so we brought 6 guys. When the Panthers only had 5, that meant that 1 Bruin wasn't going to get to play. You were all so gracious, offering to be the one not to play, stating reasons that other guys should play, even cheering on Angel (who had just been along to spectate) to get his chance. When you are for each other, I am extremely impressed. You are brothers.

I am grateful for...
- Caleb's confident footwork.
- Will's excellent net play.
- Nathan and Jonah's comfort with each other.
- Nathan and Jonah's understanding of their roles, and their plan.
- Liam's determination to change his effort and plan.
- Tyson's sacrifice.
- forgiveness.
- Angel's presence to cheer on the team.
- safe bus rides.
- beautiful sunsets.
- laughter on the bus.
- real conversation on the bus (what are the proper expectations during prayer?)
- Andrew running practice for the guys who didn't get to play.
- so much more...

Lord God, we are trying to work this week on getting stronger. On trusting our strengths more, of not fearing our weaknesses. On working through distraction. Please, allow us opportunities to trust You more as well. Let choose understanding over dissension, unity over disorder, shalom over self. May Your grace continue to lead us. Amen.

#1S - Liam Bradford - 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 - Logan Nutt (11)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 6-0, 6-0 - Garrett Culler (12)
#3S - Will Nisley - 6-2, 6-3 - Mike Perkins (11)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 6-0, 6-0 - Cam Penick (12)/Logan Hamilton
#2D - Philip Krabill/Tyson Miller won by forfeit

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fremont Match Report

More Photos: Click Here

I was impressed by every position tonight, for different reasons. But it was the first night where I felt like the work that we've been putting into doing the right things finally paid off with some results. We don't ever judge ourselves based on results, but its is nice to celebrate when things work :-)

At #2D, I was impressed by the energy that Will and Tyson keep through every match. They went through some stretches of poor play tonight, where double faults or lazy errors plagued every other point. But they would regroup, smile and go back at it. That takes teammates caring for each other, believing in each other, and trust. I was glad to see that in their victory.

At #1D, Jonah and Nathan really hit the right shots at the right times. And they were shots that they would not have been confident in at the beginning of the season. Jonah actually controlled the net well, volleying through the middle of his opponents and uncountable number of times. And Nathan used simple baseline shots to put the Eagles under pressure. Our weaknesses are becoming areas that are much more solid.

At #3S, Philip struggled a bit in the first set. His shots were a bit wild, he was going for too much in difficult situations, not enough in easy situations. He was just a little off. But I was impressed at how well he picked it up to finish off a close first set (he had led only 4-3 at the end) and then carry the good play and momentum through a not as close second set.

At #2S, I loved how Caleb responded to pressure. After winning the first set 6-1, Caleb experienced the second set lull that happens to so many players. His opponent found some momentum and built a 2-1 lead with the chance to take it to 3-1 on serve. The 1-2 game was long, and Caleb hit some not so great shots and balls that were just barely out. But he kept swinging. After a long game, Caleb broke for 2-2, and then served an excellent game to 3-2. From there on he didn't look back. He had refocused in a loose and easy manner.

And #1S was probably my favorite match of the night. Liam played an opponent who was very similar to him. In fact, when the match started I was worried that these guys could play all night as they both excelled at stroking the ball in and extending points. But Liam was actually very aggressive in the first set, mixing things up, playing with some power, whipping some forehands and attacking returns. He won 6-2, and then he too experienced the second set lull. His shots weren't as sharp and suddenly he started going for less. He didn't hit the big forehand but relied exclusively on lobs and dinks. Those are effective when they are mixed in, not so much when they are the only shots you are hitting.

And his opponent took advantage, becoming the aggressor. Liam fell into a 1-3 hole in the match, that he had to dig out of if he didn't want to go to a third set. But this seemed to make him more nervous and timid, and though he had great effort... the results weren't there without the aggressive shots. So we talked, and he responded. I reminded him to hit the big forehand, and he whipped it back out. Down 5-6, Liam forced a tiebreak, then played very confidently through it. Tied at 3-3 and switching sides, Liam controlled the next four points with slice, topspin, lobs and passing shots. He won all four to take the tiebreak.

It takes effort, attitude, and a plan to stay energetic, work on weaknesses, close out sets, respond to pressure and adjust when the match is tight. I saw that from the guys tonight!

The JV picked up their first win of the season tonight, and even in the matches we lost there was a lot to celebrate. I really loved the confident tennis that Braden and Aaron played to start the JV off. They played less experienced opponents who couldn't hit the ball as hard or place it as well, and Braden and Aaron just went about their business with great calm and poise. Braden especially put a nice match together, and I was glad for him. He's been forced into varsity action so much lately when we've thought he was going to be #1SJV... I was glad he got his JV victory :-)

The rest of the lineup kept that theme. Josh zoomed around the court and forced his opponent to hit a lot of shots, until an error occurred. I especially liked Josh's confidence when his opponent came to the net. Josh didn't freak out and hit some great passing shots. #1DJV of Joseph and Chris had a confident match as well, where they hit some really smart shots that created separation in the final score.

The matches that really impressed me though were the last few on. Theo and Sam were matched up against Fremont's #1 and #2 players on the JV, and they competed admirably. Theo really had his forehand working tonight and forced all sorts of errors while Sam shots had more consistency.

Jim and Angel played awesome. When these two are in the right positions, their swings are excellent. I loved watching Jim spin forehands and backhands away, but my favorite points were his putaway volleys. And it was Angel's first match of the year, so watching him progress has been great.

And Jacob Leininger played his first singles match. I loved to watch him respond to coaching as well.
After he was told to make sure he anticipated and moved early in the rally, he had a point that took well over two minutes to play - with multiple strokes going back and forth. It was great to see him move quickly through the whole point.

The final two matches to end were #2DJV and #4SJV. Both of those matches were ones that we were down in, 3-7 at #2DJV and 4-7 at #4SJV. With our backs against the wall, Matthew, Austin, and Josiah all didn't give up. They worked to keep more shots in. To slightly change their plan. Josiah began to move quicker to his forehand. Matthew adjusted his forehand to take a little pace off. Austin decided to just use his second serve as his first serve was not working well. Matthew hit simpler volleys at the net. Josiah got pumped up and called out "Let's go!" and the whole team echoed him. And both positions made great comebacks to get to tiebreaks.

Playing side by side, the tiebreaks were exciting. But unfortunately, we got a little tight and got nervous in the tiebreaks (and maybe got caught in going for too much, too soon in some of the points). But I was really proud of the effort it took to not give up, and to get to that point.

All in all, a great effort from our JV. We want to continue to improve, but we used our strengths well.

It was enough tonight to see many players get to experience the joy of winning together. It was enough to sing. It was enough to know that even those that didn't win had the support of their teammates around as they battled through close matches and tiebreaks. It was enough to pat them on the shoulder and smile. It was enough!

You are brothers. And others notice it. Last night, I happened to hear a Fremont fan remarking how after the varsity came off, they went to watch the JV guys and cheer for them. That doesn't always happen with all teams, and this fan thought it was awesome, something to aspire to. I agree. When we show real support, up and down the line, we make this team something special, something more than tennis. Thanks for doing that last night, for being brothers.

I am grateful for...
- all sorts of improvement.
- being done with one of our long drives of the season.
- Liam's coachability in this match.
- Josiah, Matthew, and Austin's great comebacks.
- all of our players getting to play.
- a gorgeous evening for playing tennis.
- the concentration we had tonight.
- Caleb's serving.
- Josh's hard work getting the reward of victory.
- many people's willingness to take photos, they make these reports fun.
- not getting to my house at 10:00, but by 9:42 :-)
- Sarasponda :-) Ret set set...

Lord, thanks for a great team. You've filled our school with excellent individuals, students who I admire - their skills, their thoughts, their effort. But this team is filled up with guys that I really like, who care about doing the right thing not just their own thing (most of the time). Keep us moving in that direction.

#1S - Liam Bradford - 6-2, 7-6 (3) - Quest Crotty (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 6-1, 6-2 - Luke Chilenski (12)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 6-3, 6-0 - Ethan Bock (9)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 6-2, 6-2 - Nick Miller (9)/Josh Sherbondy (9)
#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller - 6-1, 6-1 - Nick Rutherford (10)/Evan Towns (10)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Braden Bohn - 8-2 - Alex Chilenski (9)
#2SJV - Aaron Shenk - 8-2 - Isaac Hershey (9)
#3SJV - Josh Cartwright - 8-0 - Jake Allman (9)
#4SJV - Josiah Schlabach - 7-8 (3) - Connor Trobaugh (9)
#5SJV - Jacob Leininger - 2-6 - Sam Verdin (9)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Christopher Craw - 8-1 - Sam Verdin (9)/Lucan Lennen (10)
#2DJV - Matthew Dyck/Austin Shenk - 7-8 (3) - Charlie Peet (10)/Lukas Berlew (9)
#3DJV - Theo Siemens-Rhodes/Sam Setiawan - 4-6 - Alex Chilenski (9)/Isaac Hershey (9)
#4DJV - Angel Torres/Jim Lyu - 6-2 - Lucas Lennen (10)/Jake Allman (9)
#5DJV - Jacob Leininger/Josiah Schlabach