Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Story vs. Columbia City: Match #6

The Lead: "Heartbreak Again"
The dreariness afternoon hung above us ominously as we waited in the dripping rain for the Eagles to arrive. I couldn't help but remember last season, as we drove through the gray to Columbia City for the first time, not knowing what to expect. Three hours later we had driven back, owners of our first loss, 3-2. This year, I hoped we knew what to expect, I hoped we'd come with some fire, I hoped we'd pull out a memorable match.

And it will be memorable, but probably only in disappointment. As a varsity team, this is probably one of the closest team matches ever. 3 matches went into 3 sets. There were 4 tiebreak sets (we won 3 of the 4 tiebreaks, got to like that!)

But when we needed to string points together, it wasn't there. We couldn't get the momentum when we needed it, to pull ahead, to pull back, to win the crucial games. And that mental and physical consistency under pressure will be key heading forward.

The match came down to the 3 singles spots today, as both doubles were decided in two sets. We won the #1 doubles match, the Eagles took #2 doubles. So 2 of 3 singles spots were needed for the win. But all the singles players decided they wanted to play for a really long time, and each match went into three sets. Nate matched up against a player who was quick, got to many balls, but simply took the pace off of everything. Blake seemed to be playing a carbon copy of that same player. And Ike was playing an aggressive player who liked to try to take the net and finish points from there.

Blake took a first set tiebreak, but lost the second. Nate got frustrated and made too many errors in the first set, but came back to storm through the second set, swinging the ball wide and attacking behind these balls. Ike dropped a first set tiebreak, and told me that the second set would not go to a tiebreak. It got close, but he won the set 7-5 behind much more confident strokes.

All of the third sets went back and forth. Nate was the first to finish, as he traded games with junior Derek Hinen until 4-4, where Nate's finishing touch at the net seemed to desert him. Behind a few missed volleys, Hinen took the 5-4 lead and then served out the match to win 6-4.

Which meant we needed Blake and Ike. And Ike was looking good for it. He pushed himself ahead first 2-1, then 3-2, then 4-3. Always close but always keeping his nose in front. Blake and senior Gabe Boles traded service games, but Blake did not seem confident in his strokes despite the close score. Holding a 3-2 lead, Boles finally broke and then held again to go up 5-2 in the set. Blake played an aggressive last game, but couldn't find the winning touch to take it. Boles won 6-2 in the final set, sealing the Eagles final point for victory.

Ike finished up his match, getting his first singles victory of the season. That was a positive end on the night. We'll have to get better at closing these long matches, at finishing and staying aggressive. Ike was able to keep his nerve and do just that, and he ended up a winner. It's a difficult thing to keep mind and body in that aggressive and loose state. Hopefully these heartbreaks are building blocks to some future successes!

The Hidden Narrative
Abe Thorne and Evan Grimes are coming on as a doubles team. After losing their first two matches at Northridge and against Goshen, they are on a 3 match winning streak. It all started in the second set against Goshen, where they finally realized what it really means to be aggressive and active in doubles. From there, they've taken these tendencies and won matches.

Tonight, despite a close scoreline, it always felt like Evan and Abe were in control. They were getting enough of their serves in, they were the team controlling the points (even when they were making the errors). That's what I love to see. The ability to take control of a point and put yourself in the best position possible.

And the winning has come from finishing those points. Putting down overheads, punching volleys in between their opponents, finding the seams for passing shots, and using the tool of the lob. I was quite impressed with the array of weapons from the team tonight, and can't wait to see those continue to develop. Perhaps we'll get a second shot at the Goshen team that taught us so much if Abe and Evan continue to improve!

Other Storylines
- Abe and Evan won in two tiebreak sets. That means they have now played 5 straight tiebreak sets. Also, after losing the first, they've won 4 straight.

- There were 4 tiebreak sets in this match tonight. We also had 4 against Jimtown. This team has a desire for the dramatic, I guess :-)

- For the first time in my 9 years of coaching, I was involved in a match where a line judge was called. It was weird, standing there on the court. But I did get an up close and personal view of Abe and Evan finishing off their second set.

- Wade Troyer won his second straight match at #1 singles JV. He had a chance to close it out 8-0, but felt some compassion and gave up 2 games. This is the second straight year he has defeated Blake Fearnow from Columbia City (who has a simply awesome last name!)

- Speaking of tiebreaks, the JV team match was decided in one. Sol Brenneman and Ryan Duckworth struggled with their own errors throughout the night, but they sealed the JV's second win of the season by defeating Blake Fearnow and David Peterson 7-6. The tiebreak was impressive, as the freshmen gained their composure and won it 7-1!

- Colin Samuel got his first match in tonight, and won a game too! He played a couple of very long, very good points, eventually losing 8-1.

- #2 doubles lost tonight, 6-2, 6-2. But at times, Joel's lefty serve was unreturnable. It was funny to watch the Eagles struggle with the spin of the shot as it curled into their backhands. Also, fun to watch Parth slam down ones that weakly cleared the net. Now, about doing that consistently... :-)

- Tonight was Ike's first varsity singles win! Celebrations are in order!

The Scores
#1S - Nate Brendle - 2-6, 6-1, 4-6 - Derek Hinen (11)
#2S - Blake Shetler - 7-6 (4), 2-6, 2-6 - Gabe Boles (12)
#3S - Ike Lehman - 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 - Devin Moore (12)
#1D - Evan Grimes/Abe Thorne - 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) - Ryan Flauding (12)/Dalton VanHouten (10)
#2D - Joel Gerig/Parth Patel -2-6, 2-6 - Matt Rethlake (12)/Brandon Gay (12)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Wade Troyer - 8-2 - Blake Fearnow (10)
#2SJV - Colin Samuel - 1-8 - Mason Coverstone (9)
#1DJV - Sol Brenneman/Ryan Duckworth - 7-6 (1) - Blake Fearnow (10)/David Peterson (9)


  1. Wasn't a line judge called in the #1 singles match against NorthWood in the 2009 sectional?

  2. Thanks for your commentary Matt. I know I have a lot to learn about the game and your descriptions help. I sure enjoyed watching Evan and Abe last night and found the line judges comforting in a close finish. This is Brenda, not Daniel.

  3. That should say the 2008 sectional, if I could type properly. It was the one that involved us leaving with a large hunk of wood.

  4. Tony, you are right. I forgot about the match between Luke and Preston Swain. I don't remember who called for the line judge, it was Preston, right?

    I think I forgot about it because I wasn't the line judge, nor was the other coach. It was the Goshen Sectional administrator, I believe.

    Brenda - Thanks for your comment. I love writing up the match reports, because I love finding the stats and stories that make things even more interesting! Glad they help!

  5. I'm quite sure it was Preston, and the sectional administrator served that role.


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