Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#14 - What's Left to Do?

With banners flying high for Senior Night, with a good feeling from this weekend's tournaments, with the encouragement of the crowd as each senior was introduced, we entered this matchup against Fairfield with as much energy and excitement as we could muster
And yet, by the end of the match, we couldn't get the positions needed to pull out a team victory. So as we head toward Sectional next week, we are the proud holders of 3-2 losses to Goshen, Jimtown, and Fairfield... and a "3-0" win over NorthWood. It looks like it could be an awesome Sectional for us, full of close matches. So as we head towards that, let's reflect on what we have left to do this season, and what this Fairfield match told us about that.

#1 - Get our feet and strokes into the rhythm of the match.
This has been a theme of mine all year. Every year. Your match will go the way of your feet. No place was that more evident last night than Abe Thorne's match. Early in the first set, his foot movement was awful. It looked like he wasn't into the match at all. Constantly leaning back on shots he hit with very little bite on his shots. As a result, his opponent Landon Knepp was controlling every point and forcing Abe all around the court. Abe was a step slow on getting to those balls as well. But beginning in the second set, Abe took control. He moved into position, he kept his feet into the point, and by doing so, Abe was able to move Knepp and dominate the rallies. This little change in footwork dramatically changed the match. Abe got a key win for the Bruins by sweeping the final sets, 6-0, 6-1!

#2 - Allow our aggressiveness and power to build as the match goes.
When we come out of our huddle cheer, everyone is ready to go with energy. As the match starts, you have visions of your awesomeness in your heads. And so, too often we go too big early in the matches. This is especially true in our baseline play. In Nathan Brendle's match, this was the case early. With Jordan Hochstetler moving all around the baseline, Nathan tried to end points too quickly early in the match. But the other truth about the beginning of a match is that you are cold. You haven't yet developed the rhythm, and going for the big shots too early can hurt your rhythm.

With Nathan, this meant he had to play slightly longer points. He had to set up his points a bit more. Rather than powering through the first short ball with all his might, he had to pick up the rally as he went. Little by little, he worked angle upon angle. Little by little, he worked his pace up. By the end of his first set, he was in a great rhythm. By the second set, he was able to be more aggressive and finish things. We must all build as the match goes on.

#3 - Hit the ball.
We're not a team of pushers. And when we get lazy with our feet, don't get in position, and don't swing through our shots, we get defeated rather easily. Ike Lehman discovered this as he trailed in his match against Austin Christner. When he tried to push the ball deep in the court, Ike found himself making a lot of early errors and giving Christner a lot of free points. As the match wore on, Ike began to hit through the ball. He HIT the ball deep in the court, he HIT approach shots, he HIT overheads. Only being confident and swinging the way you are supposed allows for this. You may not win every point, but hitting is the only way to improve.

Sol's match was a great example of this as well. Sol pushed his way into a tiebreak, being very tentative despite opportunities to finish the match before the breaker. But in the tiebreak, he finally swung through the ball. This gave extra pop and pace that his senior opponent, Drew Cosby, had not been expecting. It also gave Sol the early lead in the tiebreak, which was difficult to overcome. This aggression in big points was awesome, especially because it paid off. Which leads to the next point...

#4 - Win the big points.
We get to deuce so often as a team. In fact, we get our Ad often as a team. But we don't win the big points because we often don't play SMAGGRESSIVELY enough in them. We often do far too much hoping we win the point and not enough of the work to win the point. I'm not pointing to anyone in particular, but we've got to find ways to finish games. This means readiness and split steps on returns and at the net. It means taking a chance on cutting off the middle as your opponent attempts to crank a big cross court ball. It means hitting out and working the backhand corner of your opponent with aggression. It means salivating over the short ball that you are going to win the point with. It means relaxing and enjoying the end of a game, having fun with every opportunity to put another point on the board!

#5 - Play with faith in the face of facts.
The truth is we're going to have to pull an upset or two if we really want to win the Team Sectional. But those facts cannot dictate our play. We must continue to battle, even when we trail a team that we think is better than us 4-1 in the second set. We must continue to have fun, even when we lose a heartbreaker of a second set to send us into a third. We will continue to believe, as Arthur Ashe once said, that even if we trail 6-0, 5-0, love-40... the match is not over. We will continue to believe, even if we seem to be completely deluded, until Carmel eliminates us from the State Finals.

#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-4, 6-1 - Jordan Hochstetler (12)
#2S - Ike Lehman - 2-6, 1-6 - Austin Christner (11)
#3S - Abe Thorne - 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 - Landon Knepp (12)
#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 3-6, 1-6 - Dillon Lockwood (12)/Taylor Yoder (12)
#2D - Wade Troyer/Hans Miller - 4-6, 1-6 - Marcus Rodes (11)/Adam Yoder (10)

#1SJV - Sol Brenneman - 9-8 (4) - Drew Cosby (12)
#2SJV - Tristan Clark - 0-8 - Matt Yoder (12)
#3SJV - Justin Zehr - 6-8 - Samuel Clayton (11)
#4SJV - Jacob Rudy-Froese - 0-6 - Joseph Line (10)
#1DJV - Landon Weldy/Ethan Lapp - 4-8 - Nathan Azzarito (10)/Joseph Line (10)
#2DJV - Neel Bhagat/Jack Erlacher - 6-8 - Andrew Hoover (10)/Landyn Nunemaker (10)
#3DJV - Noah Hochstetler/Roberto Ramos - 3-6 - Connor Hochstetler (12)/Aaron Miller (9)
#4DJV - Delan Schrock/Paul Krabill - 0-6 - Nathan Azzarito (10)/Matt Yoder (12)

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