Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Bethany Christian vs. Berrien Springs
So coming off our loss to Buchanan, we travelled 15 minutes up US 31 to take on defending Regional champions Berrien Springs. The Buchanan coach had told me that they would be a really solid team, probably a favorite in the area to win the Regional once again, and the Berrein Springs coach let me know that they returned all but one from their State-qualifying team in 2008. After our poor performance against Buchanan, I wondered how we might do against a team who supposedly would be even better.
At Subway, between matches, I let the team know my assessment of the first match. We needed to play with ease, looseness, energy and confidence. Swing like we do during practice and warmup. Play with the belief that we belong on the court with whoever we are playing. And with that we went out to play.
Ben Mast played the type of match that I love. He played so well, dictating the match with the placement of his shots, playing to his opponent's weakness, staying in the points where his opponent was able to swing through, and finishing points when given the chance. The problem is that when you dictate with placement instead of pace, the opponents often think that the only reason you win is because they were playing poorly. That's what happened with Ben. He was so in control with his placement that the match breezed by on a steady stream of stretched out errors for his opponents and net putaways for Ben. He dropped 1 game this match, but still dominated 6-1, 6-0.
Seth had a little less trouble. Really coming over his groundstrokes and playing with heavy topspin, Seth moved his opponent back and forth and picked on the inconsistent game of the Berrien Springs player. Though he had to wait before playing his match because of Berrien's lack of a 5th court, Seth did a good job of staying loose and concentrating during his resting period. At tennis camp, we talked about visualizing and staying positive, and I was glad to see Seth get to practice that.
At #3 singles, we switched and let Claude play the singles match. Against a solid opponent, Claude ran down every shot and put the ball back deep time and time again. At 3-3 in the first set, Claude told me he was too sick to his stomach to continue. I told him to try to win the first set. He did. 6-4, the first set went to Claude as his consistent strokes and fancy spin were able to induce errors. But in the second set he couldn't make it. Tied at 1-1, Claude had to drop out.
The #2 doubles players played much different in this match. I could tell that they took my little speech to heart (or just had more energy because of getting something at Subway). They were always prepared for the next shot to come back at them. I was impressed with the net skills of and reflexes of both Jake and Blake. Many times they would have the ball pounded at them, and would quickly bounce it back into the court. Their consistent return gave their opponents more chances to make errors, and they eventually did. It was a very close match, but Blake and Jake pulled out the 7-5, 7-5 victory.
#1 doubles made me most happy of all. After looking afraid and timid in their first match, not communicating and generally putting out poor attitude and belief, Austin and Kyle started this match the same way. Down 5-1 in the first set, I communicated to them that they could not just stand and expect to win a varsity doubles match. They had to be active at the net, they had to poach, they had to take their chances and hit putaway volleys. They had to move their feet and be ready. They responded awesomely (that's a cool word!)
Austin began to boom his forehand returns, Kyle committed to getting low and hitting great volleys. Both players came up with big putaway volleys and attacked their opposite net man. Storming back into the match, Kyle and Austin won 6 straight games to win the first set 7-5. After the rush of energy from the first set, Kyle and Austin briefly returned to their tired, less active ways. Hugely to their credit, they refocused and behind some big serves from Austin and a final big forehand from Kyle, they took the match 6-4 in the second set.
I left tonight feeling awesome about the growth of our team within one day. In the afternoon, no movement, looking scared, just not hitting as we were capable of. In the second match, we pulled it together and began to do the things that we will need to continue to be a competitive team this season, and hopefully make a push for another Sectional crown. That type of progress is the thing we need to build on. Now we hope to wrap the whole team up into this upward progression.
#1S - Ben Mast --- 6-1, 6-0
#2S - Seth Krabill --- 6-0, 6-0
#3S - Claude Stickler --- 6-4, 1-1 (forfeit)
#1D - Kyle Miller/Austin Loucks --- 7-5, 6-4
#2D - Blake Shetler/Jake Gerig --- 7-5, 7-5