Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Story at Fairfield: Match #13

The Lead: "The Last One"
We won the last match left on the courts. And while it didn't translate to victory tonight, it certainly leaves us walking away with the taste of hope.

It was Blake Shetler, again, fighting through a 3-set, 3 hour match to bring home a victory for the Bruins. And what continues to amaze and inspire me as a coach is the fight that Blake puts into a match. He never believes it is over. Last night, playing sophomore Austin Christner, Blake lost the first set in a tiebreak for the second match in a row. In the Merrillville tournament championship, he had taken a large second set lead. But tonight, in the second set, he fell behind 1-4.

He could easily have stared at that deficit and believed it was the end. He could have very easily quit. But he didn't. He won a point. He played his shots the best that he could. He continued to play the game that he is confident in, not doing more, not doing less. And what was incredible is that I didn't need to talk to him about it at all. I knew, I could see in his eyes, mannerisms, fist pumps and excitement that he didn't believe this was done.

After trailing 1-4, Blake made it back into the match. He was down 5-4, but tied it at 5-5. He went down 6-5, but tied it at 6-6 to send the second set into another tiebreak. In this tiebreak we lost 4 of the first five points. But keeping cool, he fought back for a 4-4 tie in the breaker. Christner then won two points in a row to set up 2 match points. But Blake, always attacking, always staying aggressive, came forward and denied them both. Then he tacked on two more to win the second set.

Going into the third set, I was confident that Blake would pull it out. He had the strategy, he had loosened up the pressure by his big second set comeback. And sure enough, he rode the confidence and energy from the second set through the third. But this time, he took and kept the lead so that he didn't have to make a comeback.

It was inspiring for me to watch. Quietly and with such belief, Blake made his way through his match. I was most impressed that he didn't try to do more than he knew he could. Determination and mental strength, it's been said, make up 90% of tennis. And Blake showed that today. I hope that he inspired more than just me, but that his teammates will feed off this win so that next time, we won't just win the last one.

The Hidden Narrative
Besides Blake's match, there was other exciting tennis on the courts tonight. Not much of it showed up in the scoreline, however. That was the frustrating part about this match. While I enter a possible Sectional meeting with the Falcons hopeful, there's not a lot in the scores that shows how well we played at some spots.

That's really true at the JV level. Sol Brenneman played some confident, attacking tennis, but didn't come away with a victory. Joel and Himal held a lead for most of their match at #2 doubles JV, but couldn't put things away.

And that's probably the next step for this team, putting things away. I mean that in multiple ways. One thing that set last year's amazing team apart from other teams that I've coached was their ability to be aggressive and execute without errors. In big points, they would attack and end the point. And they all had their own strategy to do that. Some would work the angles, some would attack the net, some would hit a big forehand.

We've yet to figure out how to play to our strengths so that we can finish points. But that is what practice is for! And even more exciting, as we learn to finish points, we will start to win more games and then more matches!

Other Storylines
- More tiebreaks tonight (3), so now we're only 2 away from doubling up the previous record. It's amazing to see how many tiebreakers we've played this season. I'm constantly amazed at how well we hold our nerve in them as well.

- With the varsity playing so many tiebreaks this year, the question was raised as to who has played the most. Turns out that honor goes to Blake Shetler as well, with a total of 8 tiebreakers played this season. Of course, 4 of those are in the last two matches.

- Exciting point from Blake's match: In the final game, Blake ran down 3 overheads in a row as Christner tried to put the ball away. On the final one, Christner accidentally hit the net trying to finish the point. He called the infraction against himself in a difficult position, an honest call that I have a lot of respect for.

- Parth and Ike were about to win a game, up 30-40 with the serve going to Ike. The serve was hit and zipped over to Parth's side of the court, striking him in the foot. That point goes to the opponent, so it was back to deuce and we eventually lost the game. Got to get those feet moving quicker!

- Delan Schrock got his first taste of singles today, getting two games off of fellow freshman Carver DeWitt-Gall.

- Justin Zehr go the JV win tonight, really playing a good game of groundstrokes and solid movement. His improvement this season has been impressive.

- Over the weekend, Hans Miller claimed the wins lead for the JV, now holding 10 on the season. He didn't get one tonight, but neither did his closest competitors, Sol (9), Wade (8) and Landon (8).

- Just to give a little comparison for our JV'ers... our Sectional winning team in 2008 had the following win totals as freshman: Luke Hostetter (8), Jared Schartzentruber (4), Jonny Shenk (?), Johnny Kauffman (5), Jeremy Thomas (5), Daniel Buschert (5), Mikey Kelly (9)... and they also all lost to Fairfield on their first tries.

The Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 7-6 (4), 0-6, 1-6 - Josh Mullet (12)
#2S - Blake Shetler - 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3 - Austin Christner (10)
#3S - Abe Thorne - 1-6, 0-6 - Landon Knepp (11)
#1D - Ike Lehman/Parth Patel - 0-6, 0-6 - Jordan Hochstetler (11)/Dillon Lockwood (11)
#2D - Evan Grimes/Jesse Amstutz - 2-6, 2-6 - David Mohney (12)/Taylor Yoder (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Sol Brenneman - 3-6 - Adam Yoder (9)
#2SJV - Landon Weldy - 0-6 - Drew Cosby (11)
#3SJV - Justin Zehr - 6-4 - Samuel Clayton (10)
#4SJV - Delan Schrock - 2-6 - Carver DeWitt-Gall (9)
#1DJV - Wade Troyer/Hans Miller - 1-6 - Matt Yoder (11)/Marcus Rodes (10)
#2DJV - Himal King/Joel Gerig - 5-7 - Nathan Azzarito (9)/Jospeh Line (9)
#3DJV - Ryan Duckworth/Neel Bhagat - 1-6 - Connor Hochstetler (11)/Landyn Nunemaker (9)
#4DJV - Colin Samuel/Roberto Ramos - 0-6 - Andrew Hoover (9)/Samuel Clayton (10)

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