Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bethany Christian vs. Buchanan

Last night, we began our quest to stay undefeated in the Michigan League "Border Wars."  Playing with a completely different varsity lineup than last year, it seemed like it may be a difficult task.  Playing minus four members competing for varsity this year made it an even bigger task.  Not playing with energy and footwork, form or confidence, that sealed it for us.  Just barely, our match versus Buchanan became our first loss in this summer league.

Not that it wasn't close, well, for the team anyways.  Ben Mast and Seth Krabill collected two points for the Bruins, easing through a pair of 6-0, 6-0 matches.  Their equally inexperienced opponents had trouble keeping Ben and Seth's "consistently consistent" groundstrokes in the court, and had the same trouble with Ben and Seth's rapidly improving serves.  While their matches came to a quick end, other matches seemed like they were just starting.

Kyle Miller and Austin Loucks found themselves paired together at #1 doubles.  Missing their normal partners to other obligations, Kyle and Austin had to adjust their similar games to playing with one another.  Both have similar strengths, and similar weaknesses.  In the heat, it looked as if Austin and Kyle were struggling to find energy, and struggling to believe in their own games or in each other.  On the other hand, their opponents attacked the net together with ease, pounding powerful volleys and when forced back, unleashing big forehands.  Despite not being overwhelmed in the talent category, #1 doubles fell 2-6, 0-6.  

Other matches were closer.  Jake Gerig and Claude Stickler played #2 doubles.  They too had trouble moving and looking like they had energy (maybe due to the fact that neither of them thought it was important to bring water to a 2-out-of-3 set match in the 90 degree heat!)  However, they battled through the first set due to the many errors from their opponents.  When they kept the ball in the court, Jake and Claude were right in the match.  When they were tired and not moving, when they were surprised by a shot coming back, when they dropped their hands, they made their own errors and ended up with too many in the second set.  After a tiebreak loss in the first set (perhaps due to their unfamiliarity with the format), they succumbed 2-6 in the second.
The match then came down to Blake Shetler playing #3 singles.  Buchanan only had 4 courts, so Blake jumped in a car with his opponent (despite the threat of kidnapping according to Kyle) and traveled a half mile to a "ghetto court."  That's the name we affectionately attach to courts that are pretty much un-taken care of.  Blake's court had cracks aplenty, but more affecting the match was the fact that the net had no center net strap, meaning it was probably 6-10 inches higher than a regular net.  It seems like this wouldn't affect the match, but Blake had trouble hitting his flat serve over and getting an advantage from that stroke.  

Also, like many of his teammates, Blake had trouble with the heat, movement and consistency.  I didn't get to see much of the match, but what I did see looked tentative.  A common newbie on the varsity often plays not to lose, and that tentativeness throws off their game.  The player who wins most varsity matches is the one who swings through in the match just like they do in the warmup.  Blake suffered from this, Austin and Kyle suffered from this, Jake and Claude suffered from this.  It's a common mistake.  Unfortunately for each of them, including Blake, it cost them the match.  

So we finished up with a 3-2 loss.  I was a bit disappointed, because we had the chance to win, but didn't bring the energy, confidence, and form that we've worked on through camp and summer sessions.  On the other hand, that's what the summer league is for.  To get experience, to learn what it means to play 2-out-of-3 set matches, to know what it takes to be a varsity player, and etc, etc.  And our success in the league will hinge more on whether we learn these things and carry them on, rather than our wins and losses.


#1S - Ben Mast --- 6-0, 6-0 
#2S - Seth Krabill --- 6-0, 6-0
#3S - Blake Shetler --- 3-6, 4-6
#1D - Kyle Miller/Austin Loucks --- 2-6, 0-6
#2D - Claude Stickler/Jake Gerig --- 6-7 (3), 2-6


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