Friday, July 17, 2009

Bethany Christian vs. South Bend Riley

Looks like we're finished with the Michigan league, what with last night's cancellation, and in a weird summer season our last match of that Michigan league was against an Indiana opponent. We travelled over to the metropolis of South Bend to play the Riley Wildcats on a lovely evening for tennis.

We switched our lineup around a little bit due to missing players and wanting to give Mikey a chance to play a #1 singles opponent. And what an oppnent he found there. Steven Rieves, who had beaten Jared 3 years ago when Jared was a sophomore playing #3 singles, was Riley's number one player this year. With 3 years of varsity experience behind him, he looked like a player who knew his strengths and weaknesses. And his biggest strength was speed. He ran everything down. In the first set, it took Mikey a little bit to adjust to an opponent who rarely hit the ball hard, but also rarely made mistakes. He lost the first set 2-6, but was definitely finding the right strategies to compete. In the second set, the two traded games back and forth, but Mikey ended up losing 4-6.

At #2 singles, Ben Mast breezed through Kevin Kirkland, a left handed player with very good volley skills, but a few too many errors from the baseline. Ben was able to effectively move Kirkland and play to his slightly less polished backhand on many of the points and on serves. This gave Ben the advantage in most points, which he rarely let go of. He won 6-0, 6-1.

Riley was missing a #3 singles player, so Matt Ebersole also took on Kirkland. It was a great test for Matt to play a varsity level competitor. Matt has been involved in lessons and other summer activities to improve his game, and he held his own in the match. However, Kirkland just had too much pace and skill for him to overcome at this point.

At #1 doubles, Blake Shetler continued his penchant for winning long matches, wherever he is placed in the lineup. At Berrien Springs, he won 7-5, 7-5 and was the last match to finish with partner Jake Gerig. Versus Lakeshore he and Evan Grimes had gone the distance in an 0-6, 6-1, (10-8) match that was a strange turnaround. Tonight he moved up to #1 doubles with Austin Loucks, and stretched this match out as well. Austin served beautifully throughout, racking up the aces with a rapidly improving serve (all while lowering the double fault count) and Blake did a great job cleaning up weak returns at the net. Their opponents had a strange combination of huge first serves (that looked like hook shots!) and lobbed second serves that caused the match to lack a rhythm and timing. But after two and a half hours, Austin and Blake claimed a tiebreak victory, 10-7 in the third set super tiebreak.

Finally, the other quick match of the night saw Evan Grimes and Jake Gerig pick up their second wins of the summer season. They were able to take the net away rather effectively from their young opponents, and Jake's backspin approach shot seemed to fool them every time. It was a smooth 6-2, 6-0 for these guys.

So, we end the summer league with a 2-2 record. I certainly come away with some good impressions and also some real concerns. But, we'll leave those hang until next week. More than ever, I am ready for the real season to start. To practice, play and see how we really stack up. To get better, have fun, and bond more closely with teammates. It's going to be a great season.


#1S - Mikey Kelly loses to Steven Rieves - 2-6, 4-6
#2S - Ben Mast defeats Kevin Kirkland - 6-0, 6-1
#3S - Matt Ebersole loses to Kevin Kirkland - 4-8
#1D - Austin Loucks/Blake Shetler defeat Devean Haines/Jason Rankin - 6-4, 6-7 (4), (10-7)
#2D - Jake Gerig/Evan Grimes defeat Robert Marabella/David Martin - 6-2, 6-0

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