Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Story vs. Bremen: Match #14

The Lead: "Good Play, Frustrating Day"
When #1 doubles began the match, it looked like it was going to be a quick loss. They held their serve, tied the match at 2-2 in the first set, but then lost four straight games to go down 6-2 in the first set. So many matches have gone like this throughout the season. We're close at the beginning, can't pull crucial games out and then lose in two sets. It appeared to be the same today.

But it wasn't. Suddenly, everything clicked for Abe and Evan. They began to play the way that we've talked about all year. They attacked the ball at the net. They got both up to the net. They got their serves in, they played with passion, they took an early lead in the second set. Buoyed by this great play, they won the second to force a third.

Meanwhile, Blake continued his dominant play as of late. I didn't talk to him one time during his match because he's playing with such incredibly good instincts right now. 6-0, 6-0 and we had the first win of the day. It was great play from him.

And #2 doubles was playing with some vigor as well. Although they dropped the first set, many of the games came down to nervous errors. There was hope as they took the first game of the second set, keeping the pressure on the Bremen Lions.

Nathan was rolling along at #1 singles. Senior Briley Bollenbacher was able to hit some tight angled winners, but for the most part Nathan held control of the match because of his ability to win the long points and consistently hit better angles and better balls. He took the first set and built a comfortable lead in the second.

And Ike lost the first set, but never lost his heart. As he calmed down moving into the second set, he began to play his best tennis of the season. Really stroking approach shots, confidently hitting overheads, getting himself right back into the match.

And so I was ecstatic. At most positions, we played our best tennis of the day today.

And then we lost. 3-2.

The Hidden Narrative
The hidden story here is why we lost. Despite playing our best tennis, when we got to important points, the crucial games we had to win, on those points we played nervous or fell into old habits. Evan struggled with his serve and Abe struggled with consistent aggressive volleys and returns. Ike struggled to stay loose and hit through the ball. #2 doubles struggled to finish points at the net.

These have been the stories all year long, and for most of the day, we were overcoming them confidently. But when we got to the final parts of a game, at deuce, down 3-5, whatever, the positions we lost struggled to stay with it.

There is a name for that in sports: that's what happens to inexperienced teams. Experience doesn't make your skills improve, it helps you understand how to deal with pressure. Last year, I made a big deal to the team about how to deal with pressure, and we'll start talking about it again now.

Under pressure, at the end of games and matches, you want to end things on your terms. You want to take a deep breath, and then attack those points with belief. You have to set your mind to what you want to do, and then imagine yourself doing it. Think of Djokovic at the US Open. On Roger Federer's first match point, you can see Djokovic on TV nodding to his box. He's going over how he's going to react on this return and he's physically affirming that he's going to do it. That's the mental strength. It's what inspired me about Blake against Fairfield... he was down but he knew he was going to do it.

We improve that aspect, the nervous mistakes get replaced with confidence, and we will win these points, games and matches.

Other Storylines
- JV tied 2-2. That is the second JV tie of the season, giving them a perfectly even record of 6-6-2, with 2 matches left.

- In the JV match, Hans Miller won with Wade Troyer to up his team leading wins to 11. The most JV wins in a season is 15 by Seth Krabill. And while Hans doesn't have the ability to match that, he'll get close if he can win the next 2.

- Yep, we had another tiebreak in the varsity match tonight. Perhaps it will begin to be news only if we don't have a tiebreak. We're up to 28 now.

- Oh, and this was our 6th "3-2" match of the season. We're 3-3 in these matches (beat Goshen, Triton, Westview - lost Fremont, Columbia City, Bremen). One more and we'll set the record for most "3-2" matches in a season as well. I guess we like it close!

- Blake's 6-0, 6-0 win was only our 2nd double bagel of the season. On the flip side, we've also only been double bageled twice (#3S against Northridge, #1D against Fairfield).

- For #1 doubles, this is only the 2nd time that we've lost a first set and still forced a third. This is a big reason why I'm so proud of them!

The Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-3, 6-2 - Briley Bollenbacher (12)
#2S - Blake Shetler - 6-0, 6-0 - Brad Foster (11)
#3S - Ike Lehman - 5-7, 6-7 (2) - Wes Burkholder (11)
#1D - Evan Grimes/Abe Thorne - 2-6, 6-1, 3-6 - Austin Huff (12)/TJ Bayer (12)
#2D - Parth Patel/Jesse Amstutz - 3-6, 2-6 - Joe Zeltwanger (11)/Nate Strehler (11)

#1SJV - Sol Brenneman - 1-8 - Jalen Bayer (11)
#2SJV - Landon Weldy - 3-8 - Krent Hueni (9)
#1DJV - Wade Troyer/Hans Miller - 8-3 - Tyler LaFlash (10)/Austin Ingle (9)
#2DJV - Himal King/Joel Gerig - 6-2 - Matt Hall (11)/Kevin Woodyard (10)

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