Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Letters from Northridge

Dear Team,

Congratulations on another good night of tennis. From the moment this match started, I felt good about it. We've been emphasizing the importance of starting a match with intensity, and tonight I felt like we were focused and intense from the beginning. At every position we took early leads, I believe we led either 4-1 or 5-2 in every first set, and we were able to finish off those sets without too much drama. Then we were able to carry that momentum into the second set in every position except #2 doubles (who just figured they would rather play longer on a beautiful night rather than sit and watch :-)

On the JV level, Northridge had one of the most talented teams we've played. They have a very talented freshman class and a few others who round out their team. But we met that level well in our matches. I was also glad to actually get some time to coach you guys, I felt like many of you responded well to our little tweaks. The JV match actually came down to the freshman, when they were on the court we had to have one of them win in order to seal our 9th JV win. So what happened? Of course, 2 of the 3 won! It was encouraging to see us getting better and playing this well against a solid opponent.

What we need, all the way through the team now, is consistency. Tonight's match felt remarkably similar to Triton on Saturday. These have been matches where we've come out focused on how we want to play. That has to continue to be our trademark throughout the rest of this season. And then truly, we'll get even better if along with that consistent mindset we become more consistent in our play. Errors are still what makes us lose points. The more we are able to smaggressively keep the ball in play, the more we'll play exactly like we want to.

Dear Ryan,
You're really understanding what it means to play under pressure. It was a beautiful thing tonight to watch you in the close out game on your serve. Up 5-3, you relaxed. No double faults. Two big net winners, including one of the craziest points of the night that you ended with a scissor kick overhead. But even more impressive I think was match point. Up 40-30, you decided to serve and volley. When the return came back at about shoulder height, you popped a volley down the line, straight at their onrushing player for a quick winner to end any suspense. That ease led to beautiful play tonight, and a wonderful end to your match.

Dear Northridge,
Thank you for your incredible competiveness. I know that you were without your normal #1 singles player tonight. That makes a huge difference in the match. Many of you played positions that you normally had not. However, you competed and did yourselves proud. You are also a team with few seniors, so a team that we won't necessarily be looking forward to facing in the coming years.

Dear Jacob,
I was so proud of you last night. I think you have to understand how excellent the end of your match was, and why it is so encouraging moving forward. At the beginning of the year, we talked about the Triangle that it takes to win a match - Mental game, strategy, and technique. When I got down to your court you were down 1-4, and by the time I had a chance to talk to you, you were down 1-6. You could have thrown in the towel mentally, but you didn't. You believed you could play better. And so you were working on the mental part of the Triangle. Then, I gave you a strategical instruction to just pretend that you were playing Five Errors. You listened and executed that strategy. And suddenly, you won 3 out of the next 4 games! You did an excellent job turning it around. And now, you have an excellent starting place for the coming matches. You have that last part of your match to recall, focusing on how you played.

Dear Bryce,
It stinks that you can't play, but you are a helpful assistant coach. Every one of your remarks last night were right on. Either things that I had also noticed too or great observations that helped within our matches. Your notes about scores and points were great also. I love having someone to help me keep an eye on things, because even though I pretend that I know everything that is going on in a match, there's often a good bit that I miss. Thanks for your help!

Dear Simon,
Last night you picked up your 6th varsity win of the season, 5 at #1D. That is awesome! Your winning percentage this year is 75%. That would put you 6th on the all time winning percentage charts! When you walk onto the court, walk out with confidence knowing that you always belong there and are just as good as any player you might see on the other side of the net. You know how I know this? Because you've put the work in. In the off-season, in the summer, after practice. Take confidence in how you've prepared and how that has turned out. You are awesome!

Dear Brandon and Lane,
Speaking of awesome... it is so much fun to watch you play together. I want to challenge you guys to something in the rest of the practice season and then into the offseason. You are already really good, I want you to become ELITE. In other words, don't aspire to be good doubles players next varsity season. Instead, aspire to play so much, play so hard, get so much better that next season you will be the best doubles team. You have the strengths and talents. Just keep getting better and better.

Dear God,
I've been reminded recently to love You with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength. That is simply my prayer for the team right now. May we love You with our hearts and our souls and our strengths. Let us think and act on these best things that You've created in us. Let us give our best back to You. Thank You for what You teach us, and let us continue to think about things that are good and true - about humility, passion, servanthood, unity and thankfulness.

Moment of Sheer Beauty
The thing that is the most beautiful to me is when my players are playing to their best abilities in exactly the way they enjoy. I saw that so many places tonight, in Jacob's comeback, in Sol's game clinching point, in Daniel and Jackson's doubles. But the place that stood out to me was Dustin Miller's victory. Dustin's strength is his forehand, and his perfect game dictating the points by using that. In his match tonight, we found that he could break down his opponent by moving him around and then using his forehand to get to his opponent's backhand. We needed Dustin to win his match to seal the JV win and he kept using his perfect strategy, playing how he wanted to play, and winning point after point. At deuce in his final game, he dipped his forehand low over the net to his opponent's backhand which got clipped weakly into the net. He set up a pressure filled match point by aggressively playing his way. It was beautiful. Under the pressure, his opponent unfortunately double faulted. But Dustin had set up that pressure with his earlier play. Way to go!

Moment of Savage Beauty
Many will be nominated, but only one person ever seems to win. Ryan Duckworth, your point today to put #2Ds up 30-0 in your final game (the scissor overhead) was cool. But the point earlier in the match where you ran a volley down behind Landon and put up a lob then chased down the subsequent overhead in the forehand corner of the court, then approached with a ball at your opponent and then finished with an overhead through him... well, that's the definition of playing awesome! That was the perfect picture of move your feet (chasing down everything), relaxing (you still went for the power shot), and having fun. Way to live out your focal point!


#1S - Jesse Amstutz - 6-3, 6-0 - Simon Grevengoed (9)
#2S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-2, 6-0 - Sam Hoover (12)
#3S - Sol Brenneman - 6-2, 6-1 - Luke Wogoman (10)
#1D - Hans Miller/Simon Hurst - 6-2, 6-3 - Austen Schmidt (11)/Ted Field (12)
#2D - Ryan Duckworth/Landon Weldy - 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 - James Dugle (10)/Aadarsh Patel (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Ethan Lapp - 8-4 - Logan Corns (9)
#2SJV - Jacob Gonsalves - 4-8 - Alex Gingerich (9)
#3SJV - Dustin Miller - 8-3 - Aman Patel (10)
#4SJV - Joel Yoder - 0-6 - Logan Corns (9)
#1DJV - Lane Miller/Brandon Nguyen - 8-3 - Austin Melvin (11)/Jate Cross (11)
#2DJV - Jackson King/Daniel Robles - 8-3 - Eric Firstenburger (9)/Isaiah Zuercher (9)
#3DJV - Jonathan Yousey/Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 6-3 - Eric Firstenburger (9)/Isaiah Zuercher (9)

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