Friday, August 15, 2014

Letters from Angola

Dear Team,
So our first competition is out of the way, and I think it went rather well! There were many things to be excited about. The #1D teams on varsity won all three of their segments (and #2D won 2 out of 3). Our varsity singles players got some excellent change of pace from their normal matches against each and grew significantly as the night went on. Our JV played extremely well for the young season and won 9 of 15 match-ups. And we traveled to Pizza King for cheesy breadsticks!

Beyond being excited, there are things to learn from the night as well. Byeong Min and Jesse have to continue to learn how to stay in control of points when their opponents play with power and depth. Doubles have to continue working on getting serves in and not giving away points. We all have to learn to deal with less warmup time and still getting off to good starts in our matches (because this happens during the season too). And we all, I'm sure, having individual learning points from our match. Much of our season will depend on how we deal with this learning. Do we take it on? Do we attempt to improve? Or do we just continue on our way?

But even beyond learning, there were moments that made me proud. How Jesse dealt with a conflict in his match without becoming angry. How Landon rebounded from a poor first segment to play stellar in the next two. How the JV switched around positions and partners without complaining and still played higher and higher quality of tennis. How the waitress at Pizza King told me that we're one of the easiest teams to work with that come in. How Hans leaned back at Pizza King, looked around at the team eating, smiled and said, "This is nice."

Dear Waitress at Pizza King,
Your hearing is very good. Your attitude is excellent. We have so much more fun when we are in the restaurant and you are there. Teasing Seth about his beard was excellent, and what better advice to the group of sophomores that you were delivering pitchers of pop to than to "Keep your hands to yourselves until I get away from you." You make one of our favorite eating experiences of the year even more joyful!

Dear Angola Team,
We appreciate your hospitality. We appreciate your competition. You've got a great team again this year with 3 high level singles players and a very solid team the rest of the way down. Coach Hottell has done a great job keeping up the great tradition of Hornet tennis. I'm proud to be an alumni of your team and program. I always love coming back to see the courts, the school, my coaches (and Mr. Wright was there last night too!). And you've been gracious to us every year. Good luck, as always, we hope to see you again in the Regional (if we can fight out of our Sectional :-)

Dear JV Team,
It's time to dominate. This year, you bring back a solid core of awesome sophomores. It's time to start thinking of yourselves as varsity players. That means you need to take it to the other JVs that you play. Elevate your game. Get better at your strengths. Get better at your weaknesses. Be convinced that you can beat the varsity players on our own team and when you get the chance - challenge them so hard that they get scared to lose their position. Do it with passion, but do it with grace. But let's start thinking of ourselves as ready to compete at the highest levels, and do what it takes to get there.

Dear Byeong, 
You too. We need you to compete with energy every time out. You are such a skilled player. I love watching you play with confidence and energy. Your shots can be unhittable at times! I can't wait to see what you do this year. Make sure you keep your mental attitude ready to rise to any challenge. Tonight you played some really great players, a #1 who will challenge for All-District (probably make it) and a #2 who played in the State Finals last year. Let those type of challenges excite you, and be convinced that you can rise to meet them!

Dear Team,
I already wrote you one letter, but here's another. In the match last night, I noticed that it easy to isolate yourself on your court once your match starts. To become overly concerned with only yourself. That's a sure recipe for a bad mental state. Don't forget, don't ever forget, you are blessed to be a blessing. Given to to give. God has great goodness for you, and the world doesn't stop with your tennis match. Be gracious, be a good sport, be other-minded even in your singles matches. Be filled with gratitude to God. There is something much bigger than your match.

Dear God,
Thanks, it was a wonderfully beautiful night in so many ways. Your goodness has come to us in Your many gifts. Last night truly felt like we were rejoicing. Let our rejoicing be in praise to You.

Moment of Sheer Beauty
As in every match, moments of beauty exist all over the place. Players gain confidence, enjoy their strokes, hitting shots that make you smile. The moment of sheer beauty is an award for the things that make us smile.

Always, this could go to multiple people. I almost gave it Ryan Duckworth for his overhead whiff that he then ran behind and overheaded again. But instead, the thing that made me smile was Jacob Gonsalves drumming on the bus ride home. Why? Because we've been talking in devotional times about using our gifts for the team. And I couldn't help but think that his gift of drumming (with Simon Hurst joining in by the way) could be metaphorical for our team this year. It takes one person to get the rhythm going, and then everyone jumps in with what they can add. Like Lane did, I think just making one simple sound. But Jacob helped get it started tonight, I hope someone does the same for our tennis, gives their gift and we all jump in.

Moment of Savage Beauty
Again, there were many moments of powerful beauty throughout the matches. Landon's thundering ace to end one of his service games in the final segment. Bryce hitting the top of the fence with an overhead in his singles match. Sol whipping an approach past his opponent in the second and third segments.

But ultimately, the most savage point was one that changed the entire outlook of a match. At #1D in the second segment, Hans and Landon were being backed onto their heels by a powerful #1D combo of the Hornets. Down 0-1 and 15-30, Hans and Landon played out a long rally where Hans ended up on the left side of the net with Landon on the right baseline. After a deep crosscourt ball from Landon, Hans poached across the middle to pick off a rare floater from the Angola player. Crossing to his right, he slammed an overhead away at an extreme angle crosscourt. The he turned to Landon with a double fist pump. He had met his opponent's aggression with his own. He was not going to be put on his heels.

And the match changed. From that point on, Landon and Hans were the aggressors. They won the next 6 (!) games in a row. That's a savage, match changing moment of beauty indeed!


Segment #1 (Played for 30 minutes)
#1S - Jesse Amstutz lost 4-5
#2S - Byeong Min Lim lost 3-5
#3S - Sol Brenneman lost 1-9
#1D - Hans Miller/Simon Hurst won 6-3
#2D - Landon Weldy/Ryan Duckworth lost 3-5

#1SJV - Ethan Lapp won 6-4
#2SJV - Jacob Gonsalves lost 5-7
#3SJV - Jackson King lost 3-5
#1DJV - Brandon Nguyen/Lane Miller won 5-4
#2DJV - Bryce Miller/Daniel Robles tied 5-5

Segment #2 (Played for 30 minutes)
#1S - Byeong Min Lim lost 2-6
#2S - Jesse Amstutz lost 2-8
#3S - Sol Brenneman won 7-1
#1D - Hans Miller/Landon Weldy won 6-3
#2D - Ethan Lapp/Simon Hurst won 4-3

#1SJV - Bryce Miller lost 3-5
#2SJV - Jacob Gonsalves won 7-1
#3SJV - Daniel Robles lost 2-6
#1DJV - Ryan Duckworth/Brandon Nguyen won 6-3
#2DJV - Lane Miller/Jackson King won 6-0

Segment #3 (Played for 20 minutes)
#1S - Jesse Amstutz tied 2-2
#2S - Byeong Min Lim lost 2-5
#3S - Sol Brenneman lost 2-7
#1D - Hans Miller/Landon Weldy won 8-1
#2D - Ryan Duckworth/Ethan Lapp tied 3-3

#1SJV - Simon Hurst won 3-2
#2SJV - Jacob Gonsalves won 4-3
#3SJV - Daniel Robles won 5-2
#1DJV - Lane Miller/Bryce Miller won 6-2
#2DJV - Brandon Nguyen/Jackson King lost 3-4

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