A great opportunity for us to test ourselves against the best got off to a good start Saturday morning. But as the afternoon rolled around, and the second round of matches, the rain got the best of us and washed the tournament out.
The tourney was played at two different sites, so early in the morning we left Goshen and drove the two hour trek over to Merrillville. We dropped the doubles guys off at the Intermediate School where there were five courts (only four with nets) and a sweet playground in between two of them. The singles guys then drove with me over to Merrillville High School, where there were ten beautiful courts in a row for us.
As we warmed up, I noticed that we looked very capable compared to those warming up around us. Triton was right beside us, and we had already beaten them. On our other side was Lowell High School. The Devils had the sweetest jerseys at the tourney, two tone red argyle. Both teams did not seem intimidating. I think it settled our nerves in a new situation.
The draw came out fairly favorably for us. The tournament favorite, Valparaiso, was only drawn against us in one spot, #2 doubles. For us, that has been a position of strength, so we were still very confident. Ben drew Highland, a team we had seen had a good record, and so that looked to be a challenge for him, but winnable. Seth drew Wawasee, and their #2 Nathan Brady has one of the better records in our area. Nate drew Lowell, a team that we thought (record wise) was probably one of the weakest. Finally, #1 doubles drew Merrillville, whose #1 doubles had been one of their stronger positions despite their poor team record.
So with the draws done, the play began. Ben just came out on fire. Quickly he was up 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. After tough games to get to 5-0, his Highland opponent began to truly unravel with errors. The second set flew by, and Ben posted a strong 6-0, 6-0 victory. Then he waited for his next opponent, either Leonard Matthews II (who finished fourth at state last year) or Valpo's #1 Marc Shideler. That match was intense, and Shideler upset Matthews, 6-3, 7-6. So that was Ben's next opponent.
Seth got off to a great start as well. His opponent, Wawasee's Nathan Brady, hit the ball with a lot of pace and was very consistent. Seth was just more. Seth made Brady hit perfect shots, and if he didn't then Seth put them back in the court. But not just back with no pace, Seth was really hitting the ball well. A long first set saw Seth take a 5-2 lead. Then a game that lasted for 15 minutes finally ended with Seth winning the first set. The second set was faster, with Seth winning several games at love before finishing it off 6-0. He also moved on to play Valparaiso in the second round.
Nate Brendle played Lowell's junior Johnny Goodrich. It was obvious from the beginning that if Nate kept the ball in the court, Goodrich would have trouble returning it. Nate's heavy topspin, especially on his serve, made strokes difficult for Goodrich. I left in the middle of Nate's match to head to the doubles, when it was obvious he had the match in hand. Sure enough, Nate rolled in the second set as well to set up a second round match with Centerville.
At #1 doubles, Kyle and Matt joined the trend of fast starters. They went up 5-1 but couldn't quite finish the first set. They allowed Merrillville to come back and tie the first set at 5, but Kyle and Matt got it back together to take the set. In the second, they allowed Merrillville to take the early lead, and could never quite catch up. The match entered a decisive third set tiebreak. Matt and Kyle came out aggressive early, with Matt striking sharp balls and putting away volleys. But soon the Pirates came back. With the score tied at 8-8, Matt hit a serve that appeared to have put us up 9-8. But it was called out and Matt followed with a double fault. On Merrillville's first match point, they won as we missed a volley in the net. It was a disappointing end to the match that we played really well in at times.
#2 doubles played their most challenging match of the season as a pair. Russell was still undefeated, having been sick during the Columbia City match that marked #2 doubles only match of the season. Despite playing tourney favorite Valparaiso, it looked as if he would remain that way after the first set. Blake and Russell took a first set at 6-2. But then Valpo turned up the aggression, attacking the net quickly and with purpose. They took a 4-0 lead in the second before the Bruins turned it around. We cut the set to 5-4, and had a chance to tie it at 5, before we lost the set. In the tiebreak, we went down 3-7, and then pulled it back to 7 all. Then we lost two more points to give the Vikings 2 match points. But both were denied by crosscourt Russell forehands. Points went back and forth a bit before we held a 11-10 lead. Blake boomed a serve and the return went into the net.
I hustled back to the singles site, but the rain began on the way. Play was stopped when I got there and never began again. The tournament was called after that first round. It was a great experience, and a disappointment not to finish. But next year we will!
#1S - Ben Mast - 6-0, 6-0 - Danny Morgan (11), Highland
#2S - Seth Krabill - 6-2, 6-0 - Nathan Brady (?), Wawasee
#3S - Nate Brendle - 6-3, 6-1 - Johnny Goodrich (11), Lowell
#1D - Kyle Miller/Matt Ebersole - 7-5, 4-6, (8-10) - Brandon Shea (12)/Tyler Shockey (11), Merrillville
#2D - Russell Klassen/Blake Shetler - 6-2, 4-6, (12-10) - Jordan Hyde/Tyler Costas, Valparaiso