A nice, cool autumn morning for the Bruins turned into an intense afternoon, as the last match came down to the last position left playing. But it turned out pretty well, as you might see from the picture above! Trophy.
In this tournament, we were to play 3 dual matches. Each team in the tournament held in winning record entering the day. Perhaps the best team in the tourney was the Taylor Titans. They had beaten Eastern earlier in the season, and had a 9-5 record coming in. They also had positions that they had rarely lost this season, at #2 singles where sophomore Nate Gotshall was 12-2 and #1 doubles, where Matt Brankle and Cameron Clark had won their conference and only been defeated twice on the year.
As the first sets began, we held good advantages at several spots. Ben Mast jumped out early and looked to be in control of his match, while the scores were staying close he had opponent Drew Hansen scrambling all across the court. This proved to be the course of the match, as Ben continued his control in the second set and sealed a victory for us.
Sealing another spot was #2 doubles, sailing past two freshman in straight sets. Russell and Blake lost the first two games, but then won the next 12 in a row to win the match.
Nate Brendle also started off strong, winning the first set in impressive fashion with some great play. Everything seemed to be working as he pulled and pushed his opponent around the court. But in the second set, things got just a little bit off. He couldn't get the same shots in that he had in the first and found himself in the first of five tiebreakers that he'd play on the day. Unfortunately, he couldn't pull either tiebreaker out in this match and lost in "3 sets."
Which meant we need either #1 doubles or #2 singles, the spots of strength for the Titans. As it turned out, we got both spots. Seth played a great match, turning on the aggressiveness just enough to put Gotshall on his heels. Although the match had tight, long rallies, Seth always looked the favorite to come out with the win. At #1 doubles, the whole match went back and forth, but a lot depended on Matt Ebersole's putaways. With Kyle playing the net extremely well, Matt picked it up and gave us a chance for the #1 doubles upset. In the super tiebreak, Matt broke an 8-8 tie with a baseline overhead. With the one point lead, Matt ended the match with another one.
And so we started the day with a 4-1 victory over what we supposed would be the strongest team at the tournament. As it turned out, they would finish second. But this would be our biggest win of the day. Crazy, but a nice job by our guys!
#1S - Ben Mast - 6-3, 6-3 - Drew Hansen (10)
#2S - Seth Krabill - 6-3, 6-3 - Nate Gotshall (10)
#3S - Nate Brendle - 6-2, 6-7 (2), (4-10) - Logan Barnes (10)
#1D - Kyle Miller/Matt Ebersole - 6-7 (3), 6-3, (10-8) - Matt Brankle (12)/Cameron Clark (11)
#2D - Russell Klassen/Blake Shetler - 6-2, 6-0 - Jack Lipchik (9)/Casey Glick (9)
In our second match, we took on the Apaches of Wabash. They entered this match off a win against Eastern in the first round, which put their record at 11-4 on the season. We had a measure of revenge to get against Wabash, because last year they had beaten 3-2 in this tournament and we had not played well at all.
And all of that began with Ben Mast. Last year he had played Justin Middleton of Wabash at #2 singles, and taken the first set 6-2 before losing control of the match. He had lost in the super tiebreaker, which proved to be the difference in the 2-3 loss. This year, Ben came out and lost the first game of the match. But then he relaxed and started to play. Driven by the previous year, Ben won 11 of the next 12 games for a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win.
At #2 singles, Seth played very well throughout his match. With the match never really in doubt, he cruised to a win. The same thing happened at #2 doubles, where Blake and Russell lost a total of 13 points in a 6-0, 6-0 victory over the Apaches. With three victories in the bag, the match was won. But we had 2 close positions still playing.
#1 doubles was coming off a great victory over a very good Taylor team. But at the beginning of the Wabash match, they seemed uninteresting in playing the same way. From the start, Wabash was the aggressor in the match, putting Kyle and Matt on their heels. The first set was disappointing, but the Bruins began to come back in the second. After a bit of a tongue lashing from assistant coach Michael Steury, the fight was restored to the team. They fought back to take a 6-5 lead in the second, but couldn't close out the set.
Nate was also struggling with a weird opponent at #3 singles. Logan Hettmansperger, a senior, hit the ball extremely hard but with lots of slice. This made it difficult for Nate to get his regular stroke going. And, unfortunately, Nate was still struggling with a multitude of errors. After losing the first set in his third straight tiebreak, Nate struggled to stay in the match. He lost a frustrating match, but the team had won.
At 2-0 on the day, we were feeling good as a team. And this was our first dual match victory over the Apaches ever, since last year was the first time we'd played in a dual match format. It was another good challenge for many of our positions, another quality match.
#1S - Ben Mast - 6-1, 6-1 - Justin Middleton (11)
#2S - Seth Krabill - 6-2, 6-1 - David Driscoll (10)
#3S - Nate Brendle - 6-7 (5), 3-6 - Logan Hettmansperger (12)
#1D - Kyle Miller/Matt Ebersole - 3-6, 6-7 (5) - Trevor Patton (12)/Nate Price (11)
#2D - Russell Klassen/Blake Shetler - 6-0, 6-0 - Matt Henderson (12)/Jack Stein (10)
In our final match of the day, we faced Eastern, the team that my brother coaches. Eastern was 0-2 on the day, having lost close matches to both Taylor and Wabash. With moral low for his team, my brother decided to switch up his lineup. He knew this would give his players a chance to play loose and have fun. Plus, he knew the switches would give them a chance to beat us.
First, the teams four best players went into the doubles lineup. Playing #1 doubles were Eastern's normal #1S and #2S. At #2 doubles, they played their #3S and 1 of their #1 doubles players. This made two formidable doubles teams.
But, in so doing Eastern basically sacrificed #1 and #2 singles. Ben Mast and Seth Krabill made short work of their Comet opponents. The easy victories gave both players 3-0 records on the day. They would be the only positions to sweep the tourney.
Which means that #2 doubles didn't come out with a victory in this match. Blake and Russell were put a little on their heals by the aggressive nature of the Comets doubles. By the time they got their feet in the match, Eastern had taken the first set 6-3. But the second set was a different story. Blake and Russell attacked and hit overheads and took advantage of errors. They looked like themselves. A quick 6-2 set sent the match to a third set, a 10-point tiebreak. Then the nerves set in. Russell and Blake hit some nervy overheads out, hit some balls that were on their way out and the little mistakes cost them, as they fell 10-8 in the tiebreak.
#1 doubles faced a challenge as well. Playing the best two players on Eastern's team, we put Evan Grimes in to get some good pressure experience before Sectional. And it didn't start well, as the Bruins quickly went down 0-5 to start the match. They got one game before the set ended, but it wasn't close. But suddenly, the team exploded to life. Most of all, they got to the net and dominated it. In the second set, they were able to close the Comets out and force the tiebreak. Of course, the tiebreak wasn't kind to us again, and with just a few tentative errors we lost a second third set 10-point tiebreak.
Which meant the match came down to Nate Brendle at #3 singles. Nate had yet to win a match on the day. Nate was not playing well under pressure at this point, having lost three tiebreaks already. Inevitably, his first set went into a tiebreak. It went back and forth, but Nate ended up losing it. In the second set, things didn't look good, as Nate went down 1-4. But it all clicked for Nate. Battling mentally and physically, Nate ran off 5 straight games to win the second set. He returned his opponent's big serve beautifully, he kept the ball in the court, and his consistency put pressure on freshman Austin Chase. In the tiebreak, Nate missed some shots at the beginning but stayed mentally tough. With a number of excellent, consistent shots, Nate pulled out the tiebreak and the match for the Bruins.
I've been praying throughout the week that our weakness become our strength. I saw that from God today. Nate had lost 4 straight tiebreaks, but when needed most, he stayed calm and won the last one. What was a weakness looked as a strength in the end. Matt and Kyle had struggled with battling back against the best teams, and three times today #1 doubles lost the first set but battled back to make close matches. It was if I could see God answering prayers before my eyes.
And we accomplished our goal for the day. We really wanted to come home with this trophy for the first time. In doing so, we equaled a school record for most wins in a season (16). With one more win, we'll have the record to this team alone. It continues to be a good season, I can't wait for it to continue.
#1S - Ben Mast - 6-1, 6-0 - Joel Coffman (10)
#2S - Seth Krabill - 6-1, 6-1 - Robbie Walling (9)
#3S - Nate Brendle - 6-7 (5), 6-4, (10-7) - Austin Chase (9)
#1D - Kyle Miller/Evan Grimes - 1-6, 6-3, (7-10) - Connor Young (10)/Noel Horvath (12)
#2D - Russell Klassen/Blake Shetler - 3-6, 6-2, (8-10) - Adam McKinney (11)/Michael Dunkle (12)