Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#04 - Changing the Pattern

The last 2 matches of the 2012 season saw the Bruins drop 3-2 decisions, close matches that could have been turned around by one individual's or one doubles team's ability to pull out a couple more big points, stay cool in nervous situations, or simply perform at a high level throughout the match instead of having lulls.

The last 2 matches with Columbia City have seen us drop excruciating 3-2 decisions, close matches that could have been turned around by those very same big pressure performances.

Our unfortunate pattern has been to feel the pressure, tighten up, and lose those tight matches.

But now, we're changing those patterns.

This match saw us play some of our best tennis in pressure situations, pulling out the three crucial matches with three excellent performances.

First, Joel Gerig and Hans Miller got the first point for the Bruins. As #2 doubles was the one spot that the Eagles had taken from Concord, I was a little nervous about this match. Hans and Joel put me at ease early. They really played great tennis, but what impressed me most was the way in which they won. They won by staying on the attack the entire match. They took advantage of good positioning, finished balls at the net, and played solid from the baseline. Their match was the quickest of all five, as they picked up momentum throughout.

Another position that got off to a great start was #1 doubles. We hadn't won any points at #1 doubles yet this year, a pattern which needed to be changed. In the beginning of this match, it was obvious that Himal was hunting for that win. Some, Parth joined him. I wish I had a count of the number of net points that this team putaway during the match. I'm sure the count would reach be above 50. It was remarkable. The first set breezed by as they got a 6-2 set.

In the second, the match stayed tight. It seemed that we were rallying more from the baseline, and having trouble keeping the ball in the court. Still, the Eagles were struggling with errors of their own. The set stayed tight, but Himal and Parth pulled ahead at the end to grab a 5-4 lead. They couldn't finish, then grabbed a 6-5 lead. They couldn't finish, so it went to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, they denied one set point before having a match point on Parth's serve. Unfortunately, they couldn't convert and soon lost the set to head to a third.

At this point, the pattern of the match was set. We would either hit winners or make errors and the Eagles were playing defensive. We were making slightly more errors than winners in the beginning of the set, and the Eagles grabbed a 4-2 lead. But then, we changed the pattern. We moved quicker at the net, we hit more first serves in, we finished with sharp angles right at the Eagle net players. Soon, it was 4-3, then 4-4, then with two relatively easy games, we'd won 6-4. It was a smoothly, almost nerveless end of the match.

As it turned out, this match sealed the clinching point, because of what happened in Nathan Brendle's match just before.

For two years, Nathan has faced off against classmate Derek Hinen of Columbia City. In 2010, we lost 3-2 to Columbia City with the final, decisive match being Nate's loss to Hinen. Last year, we lost 3-2 as well, with the final match being Nate's 3-set loss to Hinen. This year, Nathan was determined to change that pattern.

But it looked like it might come down to him again. With the other matches ending, Nathan had played a superb first set, sealing it at a comfortable 6-3. In the second set, he built a lead of 4-1, but soon Hinen was really finding his game. Derek Hinen is so quick and athletic, he can track down just about any ball. Last year, his style led him to within 1 match of the Individual State Finals. This match, he really found his form in the middle of the second set. Nathan took a 5-3 lead, but Hinen held tight to close it to 5-4. But with continued patience, Nathan continued to work each point. In the past, Nathan would get to impatient, overswing, and give away free points. In this match, he changed that mental pattern and became stronger as the point went on. The result: a 2-set win in a big, big match!

The other two matches saw us play some good tennis and learn a lot as well, especially about playing consistent players who play without a lot of pace on their shots. Abe Thorne at #3 singles looked like he was cruising to a victory as he took a 5-1 lead in the first set, but then he couldn't seem to find his groove again as senior Drew Benedict barely missed another shot. Abe lost 11 of the last 14 games, struggling to keep positive against the human backboard that Benedict became.

The story was similar for Ike Lehman. He attacked his way to a set lead, then took a 5-2 lead in the second. But the tactics then changed, and Ike struggled against fatigue and tightness to finish overheads and points at the net. Errors compiled as did frustration. The second set was lost in a tiebreak, and then in the third Ike just seemed to run out of gas. It was a gutsy effort, but one that didn't ultimately succeed.

Which was too bad. It would have been good to have a Bruin sweep on this day. But we're beginning to change patterns to our favor, so let's hope this trend continues.

Notes & Stats
- Another changing pattern: In our last 2 matches, we've watched a team member win a third set after the match has already been decided as a loss. In this match, we watched Columbia City win a third set after they'd already lost.

- This marked the first varsity win of the season for two juniors: Joel Gerig and Parth Patel. Nice job guys!

- Like Abe, Ike unfortunately lost 11 of his last 13 games. A pattern that we will change.

- Another interesting stat to keep would have been how many times Parth and Himal hit their opponents at the net. Keep your guard up when these guys are at net!

#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-3, 6-4 - Derek Hinen (12)
#2S - Ike Lehman - 7-5, 6-7 (5), 1-6 - Niko Rongos (9)
#3S - Abe Thorne - 5-7, 3-6 - Drew Benedict (12)
#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 6-2, 6-7 (7), 6-4 - Mason Coverstone (10)/Blake Fearnow (11)
#2D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 6-4, 6-2 - Daniel Woll (12)/Austin Paul (12)

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