The Lead: A Close 1-2
Nate Brendle and Blake Shetler both spent a good deal of time in the Northridge school district, and each knew their opponent well tonight. Nate played against fellow junior Chris Robbins, whom he called teammate until after freshman year. Blake found himself pitted against AJ Thielking, a fellow senior who was a friend to Blake we he went through Northridge Junior High.
But as they faced off against each other tonight, both matches were extremely intense, and close. In fact, the first sets of both matches had to be settled in extra games, #2 singles going to a tiebreak and #1 singles to 7.
And both matches had there rhythms too. It was pretty early in the #2 singles match where it became obvious that it was AJ Thielking's forehand against Blake's attacking game. At #1 singles, it was a Raider serve and forehand that blasted away against Nate's spin, consistency and depth. And these were powerful battles!
Nate found himself down 5-4 in the first set, facing the daunting task of dropping a set after more than 45 minutes of play. But with a streak worthy of our practice game "Thrice," Nate wheeled off 3 straight games by driving the ball a bit more and forcing Robbins out of his comfort zone. For Blake, it was destined to go to a tiebreak, where under the pressure, Thielking pulled out some wonderful passing shots for the set.
Again, Nate found himself a tight position in the second, after a seesaw of momentum led him to 4-4. Again, it was the aggressive placement in the next game that saw him draw the errors out of Robbins, and pull away for the two set victory.
Patterns repeated themselves at #2 singles as well, as late in the second set, Thielking's powerful passing shots began to find more of the court while Blake's shots were just off.
For two players who knew their opponents well, these proved to be difficult matches mentally, as they were long and filled with pressure points. They were also very physical matches, and under the late afternoon sun nobody came off the courts breathing easy or with much water left in the water bottles. As a coach, I am most proud of my players when they are put in awkward, pressure filled situations and they perform with class and effort. I can't sing the praises of Blake and Nate enough tonight, as the ground it out with their local, friendly rivals!
The Hidden Narrative
Lost in the scoreline tonight was an important development at #2 doubles. Parth Patel and Ike Lehman lost the first set 6-0 without much of a fight, but then had a total turnaround in aggressiveness and execution in the second set. Changing to a much more motion oriented attack, the two kept the Raider pair off balance with poaches, serve & volley, and a net game that helped force some errors. They fought their way to a 4-3 lead in the set, and had points to extend the lead to 5-3. After falling in that game, they again had chances to take a 5-4 lead. Pulling ahead like that may have swung extreme pressure their opponents way and completely changed the complexion of both their match and the team match as well. Unfortunately, they couldn't grab the points, and lost the set 4-6. But they were so close to so much more!
- The "Freshman 10" debuted tonight, but only 2 earned victories. Playing against a mostly more experienced Raider JV, only Sol Brenneman and Tristan Clark pulled out a win at #4D. However, the future of this matchup still looks bright, as only 2 of the 8 JV losses came against freshman combatants.
- JV doubles put up a fight tonight. Joel Gerig and Hans Miller fought back to a 6-6 tie before falling, and freshmen Landon Weldy and Ryan Duckworth led 4-1 in there match before seeing it teeter back and forth until a 7-9 loss.
- #1 doubles only took 1 game tonight, but it was on Evan's serve. The serve has been a place of emphasis over the last several days, now perhaps the emphasis shifts to return :-)
- Jesse Amstutz debuted against Josh Garfein tonight, who will be the area's prime #3 singles player. Last year, Garfein fell 5-7, 3-6 the Nate Brendle, who today defeated the Raiders #1. A tough, tough way to start for Jesse, but might as well get the best out of the way first!
- 2 players were missing with injuries tonight. Himal King and Ryan Minter, both juniors playing at the top of JV, are nursing themselves back to health right now.
#1S - Nate Brendle - 7-5, 6-4 - Chris Robbins (11)
#2S - Blake Shetler - 6-7 (2), 5-7 - AJ Thielking (12)
#3S - Jesse Amstutz - 0-6, 0-6 - Josh Garfein (10)
#1D - Evan Grimes/Abe Thorne - 1-6, 0-6 - Alex Radelich (12)/Andrew Gingerich (11)
#2D - Ike Lehman/Parth Patel - 0-6, 4-6 - Connor Cameron (12)/Byron Slabach (11)
#1S - Wade Troyer - 2-8 - Jed Miller (11)
#2S - Sol Brenneman - 3-8 - Clay Schnell (10)
#3S - Tristan Clark- 3-8 - James Kristofzski (10)
#4S - Justin Zehr - 4-8 - Ben Sheely (12)
#5S - Roberto Ramos - 3-8 - Taylor Brandenberger (9)
#1D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 6-8 - Erik Beck (11)/Michael Eash (11)
#2D - Landon Weldy/Ryan Duckworth - 7-9 - Ryan Taylor (10)/Landon Arnold (9)
#3D - Luke Schrock/Neel Bhagat - 1-8 - Sam Hoover (9)/Nolan Rhodes (9)
#4D - Sol Brenneman/Tristan Clark - 8-4 - Chase Miller (9)/Austin Miller (9)