Saturday, August 18, 2012

#03 - Harder and Flatter

The running joke this tennis season, started by senior Nathan Brendle, is that if you need to do better in your play, you should just hit the ball harder and flatter. Of course, this is usually the opposite of what you need, but let's see how this advice panned out on down the line, throughout the match against Concord.

First, at #2 singles, Ike Lehman could have used some different advice. Playing in his first singles match this season, he faced Minuteman senior Matt Kotva. Last year, Kotva took out Blake Shetler. This year, Ike went close in just about every game, but just missed on the big points. Ironically, when he would attack he would often get a flat shot and send the ball long. So Ike might need the exact opposite advice in his next match, something more like "spin and speed."

At #1 doubles, Hans and Joel faced off against an experienced squad of seniors. After getting off to a good start, they couldn't quite hold with the pace on the court. The Minuteman duo had serves that were putting us on our back feet, and putaways that, well, put us away. So Hans and Joel might need to go harder in their next match, in that way, the advice at least halfway holds.

Himal and Wade were playing their first varsity doubles match together at #2 doubles tonight. They hit the ball plenty hard tonight, especially when Wade was coming forward to attack high balls at the net or when Himal was slamming in his serve. Both weapons served them well tonight as they drove their way to a win, with Wade smashing away the last point. However, their only struggle came from balls that just floated, either long or to the net person from Concord. Perhaps they need a little bit of flatter.

Which takes us to the two epic varsity singles matches, the matches that ultimately decided the outcome of the team match.
Playing #3 singles for the first time this year, Abe Thorne didn't get off to the best of starts against fellow junior Jared Searer. To begin the first set, Abe seemed tentative and unsure, and got down 0-3. He found his groove in attacking the net, and ended up turning the first set around to his advantage, winning 6-4. In the second, he couldn't get anything going, and fell fairly quickly 1-6. This set up the third and final set, and with all the other matches finished, it was clear that we needed Abe's match to have a shot at a team victory.

Trading games was the trend in this third set, as no one ever really pulled ahead. Early Abe's attacking game paid dividends, as it loosened him up and allowed him to play with aggression. But Searer fought back, eventually holding a 5-4 advantage and trying to close out the set. But Abe held on behind some big serving and clutch scrambling. The final set entered a tiebreak to decide it. Abe came out big behind two big serves and some tight play from Searer. Winning the first 4 points, it looked like Abe might tie the team match at 2-2. But then, Abe could have used some of the joking advice - the part about hitting it harder. Tightening up, Abe began to push and lost a couple points, then some more, and all of a sudden, after a double fault, Abe had lost 7 straight points and thus the match.

It was and wasn't disappointing at the same time. Abe had played admirable tennis, but we had lost the team match. Which left just Nate on the court.

Playing #1 singles, Nate had won a long, hard first set over junior Nick Pollock. Trailing 5-4, Nate rallied to win the last three games and sealed a 7-5 set. It was an emotional set too, with Nate and Nick both grabbing energy from their winners and looking very dejected after mistakes. "C'mons!" and "Let's Go's!" rung through the courts.

The second set started, and Nate quickly lost his rhythm. No more were the encouraging cries coming from the court as a stream of errors and big serves from Nick led to a 0-5 for Nate. Talking to Nate at the fence, I reminded him of the necessity of finding that positive energy. Leave that last point behind, get energy from the good shots. 
And Nate accomplished just that. He turned the second set around, getting pumped and moving all around the court. Pulling 4 games in a row out, it looked like he'd maybe tie the set. But he didn't, and all of a sudden, we were also headed to a third set.

In the third set, it became evident early that Nick Pollock was trying to attack Nate's backhand off the serve return. Nate was also doing an insanely good job of attacking and moving Pollock when Nate was returning. So no one was holding. Nate is the biggest proponent of harder and flatter. But today, I told him that after his serve, as the ball came into his backhand, he needed more spin and less speed. The exact opposite of his advice.

But man, did Nate execute. Trailing 4-3 in the third set, he suddenly found big shot after big shot. A crushed forehand down the line, a backhand volley into the corner, an overhead from inside the service line, a backhand into the open court. Not only this, but he was gaining momentum from every shot as well. Errors were less frequent, and Pollock began to tighten a bit as well. In the final game, as a Pollock forehand flew long, Nate let out one final "Let's go!" on a big victory for him.

Harder and flatter... maybe sometimes. We could have used a little bit more of whatever Nate had inside him today. The final varsity scoreline of 2-3 seems cruel after how well the team played today. The truth is that our play today will win most matches. We'll just have to see if we can keep improving. But it probably won't come from harder and flatter.

Notes & Stats
- Nate's final match time of 3 hours and 12 minutes is the second longest match in Bethany Christian tennis history. Only Luke Hostetter's marathon-like 3 hours and 45 minutes is longer.

- The JV match also ended in a loss. 2-4. Although Concord had to have two of their positions play a second time. In first time only match-ups, it would have been 2-2.

- Another Bruin picked up their very first win today. After Jack Erlacher accomplished that feat on Thursday, Ethan Lapp won his first match today.

- Some others got their first win on the season. Sol Brenneman got a #1 singles JV win for his first of the year. That actually ties him for most JV victories this year, with a lot of others.

- I'm sure that Abe and Nate's matches had to be a record for the most "C'mons!" and "Let's go's!" But that was awesome!

- Nate's match was also one of the closest matches ever, with only 2 games decided every set.

- Last year, Abe's match against Jimtown at the Concord Invite was decided in a third set tiebreak. One year later, his match was again decided in a tiebreak.

- Joel and Hans actually held an early lead in their doubles match. They were the only Bruins varsity team to win the beginning game of their match.

- Landon and Tristan fought off two games where their opponents could have won the set, only to fall in a tiebreak. Bummer.

#1S - Nathan Brendle - 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 - Nick Pollock (11)
#2S - Ike Lehman - 0-6, 1-6 - Matt Kotva (12)
#3S - Abe Thorne - 6-4, 1-6, 6-7 (4) - Jared Searer (11)
#1D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 2-6, 0-6 - T Cunningham (12)/Trevor Warren (12)
#2D - Himal King/Wade Troyer - 6-4, 6-4 - Justin Ramsey (12)/Mitchell Lozier (11)

#1SJV - Sol Brenneman - 6-1 - Aaron Allen (10)
#2SJV - Justin Zehr - 3-6 - Spenser Jaenichen (10)
#3SJV - Ethan Lapp - 6-1 - Braden Fish (9)
#1DJV - Landon Weldy/Tristan Clark - 6-7 (3) - Riley Huffer (9)/Mitch Boyer (9)
#2DJV - Roberto Ramos/Jack Erlacher - 4-6 - Aaron Allen (10)/Braden Fish (9)
#3DJV - Noah Hochstetler/Paul Krabill - 0-6 - ? / ?

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