Sunday, September 21, 2014

Letters from Merrillville


Dear Team,
As so often happens at these tournaments, this day had a little bit of everything. I told you at the beginning of the day that the fun of this type of tournament, one where there are separate draws for each position, is the element of unpredictability. You never know what is going to happen. And boy, were we right.

When we got to the tournament, we were one of the first teams there. We jogged and stretched and I loaded the doubles players, coach Landon and coach Daniel into the bus and we drove to the doubles site. And no one was there. And three of the six courts were missing nets. So we drove back to the main site. When we got there the tournament director said we'd just be using one site today. Hmm, unpredictable. But awesome! We love having the whole team together in one spot.

But then another change. Instead of 2 out of 3 sets, we were going to play 2 out of 3 mini sets. So each set would now be played to 4 games instead of 6. We play these at practice sometimes for challenge matches, because they are a bit shorter. With the threat of rain, the tournament director asked the coaches to shorten, and the coaches had voted yes.

That meant that we would have a lot more pressure to get off to good starts. We wouldn't be able to warm our way into each set. And the next unpredictable element was the draw. We got great draws at #1S and #2S, even getting the bye at #2S, and #3S draw wasn't bad. But the #1D draw was difficult. The three best doubles teams at the tournament were drawn into the same side of the bracket, and we had to play the best team first.

Unpredictable. Unpredictable. Unpredictable. But taking inspiration from my brother's blog, I talked to you all about only thinking and taking care of what you can control.

I was excited about how you did that. The day proceeded in interesting fashion, but I'll cover that in my letter to each position. For now, let me recount the overview of how you played. Jesse finished at 2nd in #1S, an excellent result for #1S. Byeong won the #2S bracket. Sol finished 3rd at #3S. Hans and Simon overcame their difficult draw, and pulled out 2 close wins followed by a great win in the final. Ryan and Ethan played dominant through the draw, winning the #2D bracket. That gave us the tournament win as the team!

Dear Hans and Simon,
Check out this fun headline from the Elkhart Truth: "Miller/Hurst duo helps Bethany tennis win Merrillville Invite." Okay, so the little article doesn't reveal too much about how the day went, but it's interesting that it picks out you guys to highlight, without even knowing that it was actually true. That first victory over Centerville set the team tone for the day, and was an important win in separating us from the 2nd place Bulldogs. If they would have won that matchup, they would have won the tournament. And the crazy thing is that you didn't even play your best. But you had fun, played great doubles, and came out of the day as champions. As important as your first match was, your last match was the most fun. Triton had their best players matched up against you at #1D, and they were playing with complete freedom and no pressure - and you wrecked them. It wasn't even close. What an awesome testament to the great doubles you are playing right now. I can't wait to see you grow throughout the end of the season, and see what that brings. Congrats champs!

Dear Byeong,
What a wait, right? You had the bye in the first round and had to wait almost 3 hours to play your first match. And what did you do when you finally got out there, probably playing the second best player at your position from Centerville? You got a golden mini-set! You won four straight games without even losing a point! 16 straight! Which is crazy. And even in the second mini-set, when he started to be a bit more consistent and you missed more shots, you still found a way to pull it together and finish the job. Ever since you identified your focal point - moving your feet, having consistency, and being accurate with where you put the ball - it seems like the only person who can beat you is Jesse. I've loved watching your improvement, and was glad to see that Landon didn't have to replace you in today's tournament! Congrats on your championship too!

Dear Ryan and Ethan,
Speaking of golden mini-sets and improvements, you guys had both. Against Merrillville in the second round you dominated to the tune of a perfect mini-set. In fact, in the first two rounds you posted perfect looking scorelines of 4-0, 4-0 and then 4-0, 4-0. That first clean match was especially impressive as it came against a Triton team that had taken 3 sets to beat during the regular season. In the final, I saw the relaxed and confident tennis I always hope to see from you despite your opponent. You were having fun (and so were they!) Bring that type of fun and relaxation to even the big matches. Today was what tennis is all about for you guys. Congrats to you champs!

Dear Jesse.
I appreciate your ability to fight through adversity. I appreciate your attempts to figure things out. I hope you had a break through in the championship, of what it means to "feel." One of the beautiful things about this tournament is that I got to see what we do when we aren't playing our best. It truly reveals a lot about our character in how we deal with adversity. And I was glad to see your perseverance in the second round against Merrillville. You cruised through the first set, and then all the sudden he raised his game in the second and yours dropped off a bit. "Let's go Bucs!" was his rallying cry and it could have been intimidating. But you kept your cool. Despite going down 4-3 in the set and then 4-2 in the tiebreaker, you played smart and forced yourself to stay aggressive. Awesome. Congrats!

Dear Sol,
There's no magic potion. It's an every match choice to prepare your attitude and your game to play your best. Even then, you might have to swing through when you aren't playing your best. You did a great job coming back from some rough play in the semi-final to play some great tennis in the 3rd place match. I can't wait to see you put the new learning into action this week, but congrats on your 2 tournament wins!

Dear Daniel,
Well, I thought there would be two sites and that you would be our doubles coach. There was just one site and we were all together, but as a doubles coach I'd say you did well, because we won both flights of doubles! It was so much fun to reminisce with you, to think about previous seasons and what would have happened if this team played your team, or if your team played Seth's team and even more. There is little that warms my heart more than seeing my brothers in the BC tennis family come back and participate again as they grow into their adulthoods. This season you've been a huge help. Thanks, hope you had fun with us. And thanks for all the pictures!

Dear Landon,
Thanks for your presence. You are a huge part of the brotherhood of this team. We are not the same team without you being with us. We all wish you were able to play. But we certainly love the fact that you travel with us, eat with us, joke with us, help encourage and coach us. We love you! Thanks for being a part of this championship!

Dear God,
Thanks for this day. I love these guys and who You are forming them into. I want Your joy deep inside their hearts, but because of You. Not because of winning tennis tournaments. But I love the way tennis can be a form of revelation for us all. Send Your Spirit to us, always drawing back to You as the source of revelation. Thanks again!

Moment of Sheer Beauty
Honestly, the moment of sheer beauty from today's tourney didn't come in the form of a single point. It came when we won all of the first round matches. In a tournament like this, the draw is important. And the first round is extremely important. If you get out of the first round with a win, then you can advance to the championship, or at very least get to play for third. The points earned and lost in the first round are very often the difference in the final scores. So when #1D got out of their close match, and then Jesse finished off the first round with a 4-0, 4-0 win, well, that was the moment that brightened my day.

Moment of Savage Beauty
We are playing aggressive. I love that I cannot ever pick a point for this award. There was the whole way that Sol played his third match. Ruthless and aggressive. Or Byeong's Nadal-like passing shot in his match against Centerville. Or Simon's kneeling, falling backward overhead off of Triton's attempt to put him away in the final. But let's go with Ryan Duckworth's championship point forehand. Holding the advantage, Ryan got a high bouncing ball near the net on the left side. Ryan swung for a big forehand, but sent the ball almost sideways off to the right of the court. With huge topspin the ball landed inside the sideline and bounced into Byeong's court. His opponents just stared stunned at him. It was a great, unpredictable moment, like the ones we celebrated all day!

#1S - Jesse Amstutz - 2nd
def. Brett Sabo, Highland, 4-0, 4-0
def. Montriel Shell, Merrillville, 4-0, 5-4 (4)
lost to Brady Wagenknecht, Centerville, 0-6, 3-6

#2S - Byeong Min Lim - 1st
def. Justyn North, Centerville, 4-0, 4-0
def. Tyler Joseph, Portage, 6-0, 6-3

#3S - Sol Brenneman - 3rd
def. Cal Heinisch, Wawasee, 4-0, 4-2
lost to Nolan Witte, Centerville, 0-4, 2-4
def. Kody Sorenson, Portage, 4-0, 4-0

#1D - Hans Miller/Simon Hurst - 1st
def. Skylar Benedict/Craig Lair, Centerville, 5-4 (5), 4-2
def. Kody McGuire/Trevor Alexander, Portage, 4-1, 4-2
def. Jared Fisher/Austin Sellers, Triton, 6-2, 6-1

#2D - Ryan Duckworth/Ethan Lapp - 1st
def. Ben Waggoner/Spencer Glingle, Triton, 4-0, 4-0
def. Derel Shell/Alonso Brown, Merrillville, 4-0, 4-0
def. Tyler Butustak/Nick Donshach, 6-2, 6-2

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