Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Bethany Christian vs. Lakeshore
The difference between the Michigan league last year and this year amazes me. Last year, we had a strong group of players coming back, and the league felt like a tune-up, something that really boosted our confidence and confirmed what a good team we would be. This year, with all new players, it is much more of an introduction to varsity tennis, a way to learn and prepare for the season. And it has been a good thing both years.
After debuting four players in our last Michigan match, two more were introduced to their first taste of varsity tennis last night. Nick Rebec and Evan Grimes played their first full varsity matches, and what matches they were! Nick teamed with Austin Loucks and played #1 doubles, while Evan joined Blake Shetler at #2 doubles. Also, Kyle Miller played a new position, contesting for the #3 singles win with regular doubles partner Russell Klassen missing for the evening.
And the results? Well, they were mixed. Evan and Blake pulled off the strangest of wins at #2 doubles. As they warmed up with their opponents, I was pleased to see that it was going to be a really even match. At least, I thought it was going to be really even, until Blake and Evan went out and lost the first set 6-0. But they began the second set with a game, so I thought they would at least make the second set close. Wrong again. They plowed ahead to a 5-0 lead in the set, before taking it 6-1. Blake really got on top of his groundstrokes while Evan patrolled the net, pouncing on volleys while letting Blake prolong the rallies. In the super tiebreaker third set, we finally got the close match we expected, but Evan and Blake finished it off 10-8.
In #1 doubles, Nick and Austin got off to a rough start against the big serving opponents, but were able to come from behind to take the first set into a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, they took an early lead but couldn't hang on. What was impressive from the #1 doubles team was their consistent commitment to taking the net and being aggressive there. What limited them were the numerous mistakes from the baseline and on return of serve. Consistency is needed to help this team dominate. The second set followed exactly the same script, except that Nick and Austin couldn't pull it back for a tiebreak. They lost 6-4 in the second.
In the singles matches, Kyle Miller got his first taste of singles in a long time. Struggling against an opponent who dropped the ball short all the time, and fighting his own rustiness after a week away at Convention (kind of like everyone else), Kyle couldn't find the finishing shots to put away his pesky opponent. In two close sets, Kyle was defeated.
At the other end of the courts, Ben Mast rushed out to a 4-0 lead and looked like he might cruise to another 6-0, 6-1 victory. His opponent simply could not keep the ball in the court. He looked like a great player expect he was always dumping the last shot long or wide. At 4-1, his coach talked to him about settling down and keeping the ball in play long enough to get his strokes going. That was bad news for Ben, because he did get his game going. Suddenly, he looked a player of comparable quality to Luke or Jared. Ben watched his lead dwindle with no little amount of frustration. The Lakeshore #1 came back to win the last 5 games of the first set and take the set 7-5. His great play continued into the second set, and Ben didn't have good answers. Now, Ben didn't play poorly, but this was by far the best player he's seen this summer in the league. So Ben felt defeat for the first time.
And then all attention focused on Mikey's match. And what a match it was. Both players had big serves. The Lakeshore #2 had big strokes all around, but had difficulty controlling them at times. Mikey had some big shots, but played more of a consistent, deep stroking game. In the first set, the players went back and forth, with no one taking more than a 2 game lead. The seesaw battle ended in a tiebreak, which the Lakeshore player pulled out 7-4. Then the second set went in the same pattern. Lakeshore would win an attacking point with a forehand up the line forcing Mikey into a rushed backhand. Then Mikey would consistently attack deep and to the backhand and win the next point on an overanxious error. Finally, Lakeshore held the 5-4 advantage and had a match point.
With a ripped forehand, he approached the net. Mikey could only lunge and sent a weak lob toward the sideline right by the net. I wasn't sure it would get over, or land in, it was so close to the net and sideline. But it did. Unfortunately it set right up for a huge smash, and the Lakeshore player was right there to capitalize. He pounded the ball, but very near Mikey. Mikey took a step and leaped up to volley the overhead. Amazingly he put it right into the open court, bouncing off the baseline. An incredible overhead save to deny a match point!
Mikey went on to win that game, and eventually the second set went into a tiebreak. Mikey prevailed 7-3. So that set the match up for the third tiebreak of the match, this a super tiebreaker to 10. The Lakeshore player looked beat when it began and sure enough, the errors piled up as Mikey pulled away early and late, staving off one run in the middle where Lakeshore closed the tiebreak to 6-5. He won the tiebreak 10-5.
But that's not the end of the story. Did I mention that Mikey was cramping all the way through the second set (which he won) and the tiebreak (which he also won)? Did I mention that Mikey's cramp was IN HIS RIGHT ARM! And yet he shook it off for an awesome win.
So I'm left encouraged and hoping that everyone realizes there is room to improve. And still a couple of months to improve before we contest for the Sectional.
#1S - Ben Mast - 5-7, 2-6
#2S - Mikey Kelly - 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), (10-5)
#3S - Kyle Miller - 3-6, 4-6
#1D - Austin Loucks/Nick Rebec - 6-7 (4), 4-6
#2D - Blake Shetler/Evan Grimes - 0-6, 6-1, (10-8)