A rule of blogging: Don't be late with posts, keep the material flowing.
A second rule of blogging: If you are late, don't apologize, just get back to it.
So, sorry (:-) for the delay, we'll even extend Kyle Miller Week because he hasn't gotten his fair shake yet...
Today's award is "The Clincher Award" which goes to the person who clinches the most matches for us. To clinch a match means to win the third point for the team, meaning that no matter what happens in matches that are not finished, we've won the match.
Whenever someone gets the all important third win, I finally start to relax at a match. I don't stop coaching, but the coaching can then feel like it is really focused on helping people get better rather than just trying to find a way to win their match. In a team sport, which tennis is in a really weird way, the team win is important. So this award recognizes the person who put me at ease the most during the season.
Sometimes, the third win can come in dramatic fashion. For example, the team score is tied 2-2 and the clincher is the last one left on the court. Winner takes all for themself and for their team. But sometimes, the clinches come much easy, like the team is up 2-0 and winning all three remaining matches and it is just a matter of time before one of the remaining spots seals the deal.
Regardless of how it happened, no one clinched more matches this year than Nate Brendle. Playing #3 singles for most of the season, Nate clinched 6 matches for us. Probably the most important was the first match of the season, where Nate won his match against the Northridge Raiders, this year's Regional runner's up, to give us a 3-1 lead over them and a guaranteed win no matter how #1 doubles finished up. It was a good thing too, as #1 doubles lost in a third set.
But Nate had other dramatic clinches as well. At the Wabash tournament, playing my brother's team (Eastern), Nate was the last match on the court with the team score tied at 2-2. And he was down 1-4 in the second set after losing the first. In convincing fashion, Nate dominated the next 5 games to win the second set before cruising through a 10-point tiebreak to seal the match, and the tournament for the Bruins.
The other clinches were less dramatic, but those were 2 of our closest 3 matches of the season, and Nate was the finisher in all of them. That seems like a good nickname for Nate actually: "The Finisher." I wonder if it will stick?
In honor of Kyle Miller week, I would be remiss if I didn't mention his finishing skills. In 2009, when I didn't award this award, Kyle Miller and Austin Loucks would have certainly won it. They had their fair share of dramatics, beating Jimtown in 3 sets and Triton in a 3rd set tiebreak (!) both to seal team wins. In tight situations, Kyle has been known to get himself energized and pull through. It's a characteristic that I hope gets passed on to his teammates.