I've been counting down the things I'm excited for in the 2011 season, thought I should go ahead and finish!
#11 - New Regional Alignment
#4 - Adding a New Chapter to Rivalries
Over the years of my coaching, one of the things I find most exciting is the rivalry matches. These are the matches with stories that extend beyond the current season. These are the teams that we constantly have close battles with, teams that eliminate us from Sectionals, teams that year after year we get excited to play and hopefully beat.
Our closest rivals shift over time, but certainly they always start with schools in our Sectional. When I started coaching, I even these repeated matchups weren't really "rivalries" because we got thumped all the time by everybody. Slowly that started to change. In 2007 (5 years into my coaching) we got our first Sectional victory, defeating Fairfield 3-2. That team was full of senior's who were expected to win that Sectional. A close match, a close victory, a story. A rivalry was set.
In our next match, we defeated Goshen 3-2. It happened in the closest of all fashions, a third set tiebreak in the deciding match. Johnny Kauffman and Jeremy Thomas were down 6-3 in the tiebreak, and came back to win it 8-6. 5 straight points under the most difficult of pressures. A close match, a close victory, a story. Another rivalry was set.
In the Sectional final, we lost to NorthWood 3-2. It was a match that we had opportunities to win. They returned 5 players to that team for the 2008 season, so we knew we'd see them again. A close match, a disappointment, another story. Another rivalry was in place.
Since that 2007 season, we've had tons of storylines about these Sectional rivals. For 2 straight years, we knocked Fairfield out of the Sectional. They've turned around and knocked us out of 2 straight. Since that first victory over Goshen we've added 5 more. They're hungry to beat us now. The rivalries aren't as fierce with Jimtown and NorthWood right now, because we've managed to win several matches in a row over both of those teams in convincing fashions. Jimtown is certainly an up-and-coming rivalry, with our close match this year and their entire returning varsity for next season. The same may be said for NorthWood soon.
I can't wait to keep adding chapters to these rivalry stories. Win or lose, these are the matches we remember. These are the matches that form us. Hopefully, these are the matches that bring us together.