Sunday, September 23, 2012

T #02 - Champions

It was cold, windy and threatening rain all throughout the tournament this morning and afternoon. It was a tournament that we were not favored to win. Entering the tourney, Wabash had only lost 1 duel match all season, and the same was true of Taylor.

But for all the outside circumstances, we were ready. We knew this was a chance for us to practice, to play in circumstances that would be a lot like our Sectional this coming week. We knew that we had practiced well and hard throughout the week leading up to this match. We knew that we had to focus and battle.

First Round - vs. Taylor
In the first match, we played Taylor. Turns out, we got a little bit of a break. Their regular #1 singles player, Nathan Gotshall, had to attend his sister's wedding. This forced Taylor into some lineup changes, but they were certainly a formidable team nonetheless. Nathan Brendle would faceoff against an undefeated #2 singles player, sophomore Jack Lipchik. Though he didn't know it at the time, Lipchik would go on to win his next two matches at the tournament, so he was definitely a talented opponent.

Taylor then split up their #1 doubles team to play #2 and #3 singles. These players had both played singles before, with Logan Barnes who was playing #2 slated to play singles during the Sectional and Regional series. At #3 singles was Drew Hansen, who had played #1 singles 2 years ago.

But we were ready to perform. Nathan played absolutely beautiful tennis. Playing long points with Lipchik, he worked him all around the court and breezed to an unbelievable 6-1, 6-0 victory. At #2 Abe couldn't seem to find the answers to Logan Barnes touch and placement. But at #3 singles, Ike attacked and counter-attacked with precision against Hansen. After a close first set, he piled it on in the 2nd set to pull away for our second win.

At #2 doubles, Joel and Hans eased to a victory over 2 players normally slated for the Taylor JV. At #1 doubles, Himal and Parth got off to a great start to the day. They attacked, stayed patient and played well under pressure. Despite cold and windy conditions, they came from behind in each set to get a two set victory.

The early round victory against Taylor set up a big match in the second round against Wabash. They had also won their first round, and so it looked like perhaps this match would decide 1st place for the tournament. I was really proud of the way we were ready to play, no matter the conditions or opponents.

Taylor Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-1, 6-0 - Jack Lipchik
#2S - Abe Thorne - 2-6, 3-6 - Logan Barnes
#3S - Ike Lehman - 7-5, 6-1 - Drew Hansen
#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 7-6 (5), 6-3 - Austin Douglas/Casey Glick
#2D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 6-2, 6-2 - Chris Cheeser/Camden Kindler

Second Round - vs. Wabash
In our second round, players went out onto the courts as their opponents were ready. Because their were only 7 courts in use in the first round, only #1 and #2 singles were ready quickly, while we waited on Wabash and Eastern first rounds #3 singles and doubles matches to finish. So Nathan and Abe got a quick start on the match.

And Abe got a quick finish. Playing junior Edward Dillard, a player who was 13-1 on the season, Abe couldn't get anything going. He tried to play with depth, and couldn't win a game. He tried to play with pace, and couldn't win a game. He tried to attack, and couldn't win a game. Dillard was great, playing with precision control.

Meanwhile, #1 singles was a great match as well. Apache senior David Driscoll had worked tirelessly during the off-season, and was a much improved player. Sporting a record of 12-2 on the year, he played out long points with Nathan and was in no mood to give away easy errors. This became especially true as the wind kicked up in the second set. While Nate had been aggressively taking points in the first, the wind seemed to make him more tentative. With Nate leading 4-1 in the second, Driscoll took 3 very consistent games to tie the score. Nate was able to hold serve, but couldn't get the break to win. Holding again, he became more aggressive, and built himself a love-40 lead in Driscoll's last service game. Two points later, the second round was tied 1-1.

And the doubles matches were just starting, but not in a way that looked good for us. It was clear that both matches would be close matches. While #1 doubles took a 3-2 lead, #2 doubles fell down 5-2 in the first set. Suddenly, #1 doubles couldn't find their volleys and they were trailing 5-4. In the course of the next 10 minutes, we found ourselves down a set at both positions.

Meanwhile, Ike got started in his #3 singles match. Looking for his second win of the day, he quickly took a 4-1 lead and looked like he would cruise to victory. That meant we needed to make a comeback at one of the doubles positions.

How about both of them? Early in second set, it looked like both teams had found their games. At #2 doubles, Joel and Hans actually began to dominate. Looking like the much better team, they began to attack the net and put away balls left and right. Adding to their good play was the frustration of the Wabash team. As the wind picked up more and more, the Apache team seemed to be more and more disrupted. Joel and Hans took all that momentum and wrapped up the second set, 6-2.

#1 doubles continued to play well in spurts, but the consistency wasn't there to take the lead in the set. While Joel and Hans entered the super tiebreak to decide their match, Himal and Parth were down 5-2.

In the tiebreak, Joel and Hans started out strong. They won the first 3 points, then took a 4-2 lead into the switch of sides. They quickly built that lead again, going up 7-3, then 8-4 at the next switch. The whole tiebreak was more of the same from the second set. They were simply the more aggressive team. They were finishing points and staying confident. With the lead at 9-4, they faltered for 2 points, but they were able to finish it with a Joel overhead. That gave our team the dramatic 2-1 lead.

Looking over at Ike's match, he had gone from 4-1 up in the first set to 4-1 up in the second set. He was easing through his match and getting little resistance. Soon we had our third point, while #1 doubles wrapped up their match. They made it interesting, as they took 2 games to pull within 5-4. Unfortunately, they couldn't pull it out. But the Bruins were 2-0 in the tourney, with wins over the best two teams in the tournament.

Soon, we learned that Taylor had defeated Eastern. That meant that no matter what happened in the last round, we would win the tournament. We had two wins already, and the best that Taylor or Wabash could do would be two wins. The first tiebreaker was head-to-head, and head-to-head, we beaten both teams. We were champions, but the only way it would be truly satisfying would be if we could pull out the last game. Then we'd feel like champions. It wouldn't be simple, we'd need to always focus...

Wabash Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-1, 7-5 - David Driscoll
#2S - Abe Thorne - 0-6, 0-6 - Edward Dillard
#3S - Ike Lehman - 6-1, 6-1 - JD Boone
#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 4-6, 4-6 - Stephen Elits/Jack Stein
#2D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 2-6, 6-2, (10-6) - Breyton Nealis/Kody Fuller

Third Round - vs. Eastern
While #1 and #2 doubles and Ike were finishing up their matches, Abe got started with our final match with Eastern. And it was a quick start. In the wind and growing sunshine, Abe took little time getting through his match. Before any of the final 3 Wabash matches were done, Abe got us a victory in the Eastern match.

As soon as Abe cleared off his court, Nate took his place. And in about the same small amount of time, Nate was coming off the court with his 20th win of the season. His opponent, Connor Young, tried to meet Nate's attacking style and hit several amazing shots for winners. But Young couldn't continue to win points with as much risk as was needed. Nate got an easy win, and the team was up 2-0 with only one more win needed.

After their exciting matches against Wabash, our final three positions went into the final matches very confident. The opponents that we had beaten from Wabash had defeated the Eastern players from the same positions, so we were pretty sure of victory. After all, we only needed one more position to win the match.

And Joel and Hans got up 3-0 in their first set, and it looked to be easy. Then they lost 6 straight games to lose the first set. And Ike, who had beaten Wabash 6-1, 6-1, didn't even get a game in the first set until he was down 5-0. He couldn't find the court with attacking balls and was a bit slow with his feet. His frustration level was growing as well.

And many of the team's were as well, as #1 doubles also lost their first set. To win the match we needed to get these matches to super tiebreaks, and win them.

Of course, to our credit on this day, we did. All three positions made second set comebacks and played their best tennis of the day. #1 doubles played especially well in attacking a #1 doubles team that was undefeated on the day. #2 doubles had to go to a tiebreak in the second set, but again they played their best under pressure. Ike stormed through his second set, and entered his tiebreak third set with a lot of confidence.

In fact, it was Ike who clinched the final match for us. After attacking through the second set, he went right into the tiebreak and took a 5-1 lead. Soon he was up 9-3 with 6 match points. It took him two to finish the match, but he pounded away the final overhead.

We went from cheering for Ike's tiebreak to cheering for Joel and Hans. Again, they attacked the net well under pressure and took a big lead in the final set tiebreak. In the end, they sealed their second tiebreak win of the day.

That gave us the 4-0 lead in the final match, and we went to watch Himal and Parth in their third set tiebreak. Despite playing one of their best matches of the season, Himal and Parth couldn't keep up the error free play in the final set.

But it was an awesome day for the Bruins! A trophy and lots of pictures were in store for us. Hopefully that was practice for Sectional week as well.

Eastern Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-0, 6-1 - Connor Young
#2S - Abe Thorne - 6-1, 6-0 - Logan Colwell
#3S - Ike Lehman - 1-6, 6-1, (10-4) - Austin Chase
#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 3-6, 6-2, (6-10) - Joel Coffman/Josh Evenson
#2D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 3-6, 7-6 (4), (10-6) - Robbie Walling/Zach Walker

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