Saturday, September 13, 2014

Letters from NorthWood

Dear Team,
It was really fulfilling tonight to have fun. I mean, the whole match was fun. Going into this match I wasn't sure what to expect. We've played good tennis this week but against teams that were a bit down this season. And the one spot where we'd had a little letdown was a position I figured we needed to win against NorthWood. But in the cool crisp night, senior night for the Panthers, it was clear early that we had all come to play with joy.

I knew it from the first point that I saw. Coming out of the bathroom, I jogged up to the courts to see Jesse already at the net, finishing an overhead. On Tuesday, he had been tentative in coming to net. In the match against the Panthers, he was given many opportunities to come forward and took advantage of them. His loose play looked excellent, and I was impressed at how he never had a let up.

At #2S, Byeong started out by losing the first game. It was clear that Byeong had better strokes, but that doesn't always win matches. After a brief reminder to move into the court with penetrating footwork, he rebounded from the first dropped game to win 12 straight. He actually was the first match off the courts, finishing before any JV match had even ended. Jesse followed him less than 10 minutes later.

And then Sol came off the courts as a winner too. Like Byeong, he forgot for awhile that he needed to use penetrating footwork, getting forward into the court and then into the net. But when he found his game late in the first set, well, let's just say he's winning an award today.

So team, here's what was fun about the singles: You looked like you were having fun. And though I call you all my brothers, when I'm watching you have fun like this I feel like a proud parent. Even though Sol's first set was close, I felt like with the joy he was taking in his good shots, he'd be able to pull it out. When you are having fun, it is beautiful.

And the doubles? And the JV? Well, they were fun too. But they get their own letters today!

Dear JV Team,
I was fairly sure you were going to avenge your one JV loss of the season today. But I didn't have any idea that you would come back and win in such dominate form. The first time we played NorthWood, we lost 3-2. We played that match without Ethan Lapp, who has been rotating between the top of JV and the #2D team on varsity. With him playing tonight, I figured you'd get that match and turn it around to win 3-2 at the top positions.

But then Ethan had to play varsity tonight with Landon's injury. And I was still confident that we'd win the JV match - because they had so many players I figured we'd win most of our second matches. Yes, I thought we might still lose the top matches 3-2, but we'd win the majority of the lower ones.

And then you came out and played with joy and purpose. Everyone took early leads and when the dust settled, we'd won those top positions 4-1, playing against the same players with the same basic lineup. I was really proud of everyone who played tonight. By the end of those second matches, we'd piled up a 10-2 win. It was impressive, and another step along the road to building a great-not-good varsity in the coming years. For now, you are experiencing the joy of building that on the JV, now having a record of 11-1-1.

Dear Hans, Simon, Ryan and Ethan,
That was awesome, no?

One team won and one team lost, but it was such good, fun, intense, aggressive, and beautiful tennis to watch. Even on the points that we lost, I found myself applauding and smiling. They came to the net, they served and volleyed, they hit big overheads. . . and then we did too. The #1D second set going into the tiebreak was the best set of doubles tennis I've seen this year, with both teams playing amazing. The #2D whole match was a back and forth competition with rises and falls of aggression and emotion, culminating in Ryan's scream of "Let's go!" when saving a break point in the final game before finishing off two more points to seal the match.

Build from this. Play simple but play big! These matches are the ones to frame in your head and remember how much fun it was to play the way you wanted to against good opponents. Congrats to you guys for playing so well, and thanks to NorthWood for playing the same way to make it so much fun.

Dear Jackson,
I was inspired by your determination tonight. The first time I got down to watch your match was in a game where you were down love-40. Your opponent hit a ball that ticked the top of the net and it looked like you'd lost the game, but you scraped the ground to pop the ball over the net and he hit the short ball out. You then proceeded to come all the way back and win that game.

That point was a perfect picture of you tonight. You had a goal, to beat the guy who had beaten you at the Jimtown Invite. But instead of obsessing about the end goal, you put the work in on every single point. You focused on just what was right in front of you. And in doing so, you succeeded.

Dear Jacob,
Great match today. I thought that you did what we talked about beautifully to open the match. Your "Five Errors" type of shots are devastating, and I think you could even challenge Lucas's amazing 105 shots in that drill with the consistency you are developing. I know that you want to win, but remember that's never the point. The point is: "On this point, I want to play the way that I want to." And I thought that you did that excellently tonight. In fact, several people tonight told me that they noticed you were playing some awesome points tonight. Great job!

Dear Rest of the Team,
I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, and my kids are all starting to wake up from naps. I have so much more that I want to say to you. I loved the way that Jonathan Yousey volleyed and finished points at the net today. I loved how the varsity and JV guys gathered on the bleachers (maybe for warmth) and cheered on the last two matches that were left. I loved how Lucas and Dustin controlled their doubles match, playing at a higher position than they previously have. I loved Joel Yoder's unexpected volleys. I loved Daniel's hustle and willingness to go right back on after a long singles match. I loved Lane and Brandon's continued rise as a doubles team. I loved Landon's enthusiasm as a new coach, and Bryce's continued work as my devoted "Sheer and Savage Point Watcher." It was fun! I am incredibly thankful for all of you.

Dear God,
Thank you. You are good. You are loving. You are kind. You are our protector. And none of that has anything to do with tennis. Your essence is to build the best in us. I confess, we don't always align ourselves with that vision. We often have other ideas of what we want. But I'm very thankful for times where we are able to display your character, because when we live the ways of Your kingdom, it is very beautiful. Please, continue to help us grow. We've talked about getting better at tennis, building toward our best. God, grow our character as well. In Jesus we pray, amen.

Moment of Sheer Beauty
I've thought this or said this many times throughout the year, but when Sol is truly on his game, it's about the most exciting singles you can watch. Sol's athleticism, speed, and shotmaking ability is almost unmatched (almost, because Byeong can whip a forehand from his shoelaces sometimes). Tonight Sol was in rare form. In fact, Bryce was making a list of the contenders for this award, and 4 of the 7 points he listed were from Sol's match. Under pressure tonight, Sol came up with the most beautiful points. At the end of the first set and then to seal the match, Sol played similar points. He approached to his opponent's forehand. The passing shot went back up the line, and Sol met it with a spinning backhand volley. The volley was at such a sharp angle, there was no point in even running for it. In the first set it gave Sol a set point, in the second it won him the match.

Moment of Savage Beauty
Since we've really been trying to think about building the process and not just focusing on the result, how about I give this award to a character trait that was displayed today and not just a single point? Jackson displayed incredible determination today. And determination is one of those qualities that has a little bit of savageness to it. When that savageness is focused toward each point, toward the way that we want to play, it becomes a very difficult thing to stop. I loved watching and hearing this from Jackson, and it's the type of thing I can't wait to see from many of the rest of you as well. This type of focus is something the varsity can use headed into Sectional. It is filled with confidence (I can beat my opponent), effort (I will get to that ball), and focus (I will play my way with joy on this point).


#1S - Jesse Amstutz - 6-1, 6-1 - Jared Hoffman (9)
#2S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-1, 6-0 - Ryan Menzie (12)
#3S - Sol Brenneman - 6-4, 6-2 - Evan Nix (12)
#1D - Hans Miller/Simon Hurst - 4-6, 6-7 (6) - Quinn Stillson (12)/Caleb Yoder (12)
#2D - Ryan Duckworth/Ethan Lapp - 6-4, 7-5 - Nick Myers/Devyn Maugel

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Jacob Gonsalves - 5-8 - Cooper Clark (12)
#2SJV - Jackson King - 9-7 - Court Clark (10)
#3SJV - Daniel Robles - 8-4 - Nate Nunemaker (11)
#4SJV - Jackson King - 8-3 - Cameron Stillson (10)
#5SJV - Dustin Miller - 8-3 - Chandler Gillam (10)
#6SJV - Jacob Gonsalves - 6-1 - Zach Snider (11)
#1DJV - Lane Miller/Brandon Nguyen - 8-6 - Brock Beehler (11)/Spencer Abel (12)
#2DJV - Dustin Miller/Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 8-5 - Sean Linhart (12)/Jarrett Skaggs (11)
#3DJV - Jonathan Yousey/Joel Yoder - 7-9 - Breyden Stankovich (10)/Brant Mast (9)
#4DJV - Lane Miller/Brandon Nguyen - 8-0 - Trevor Klotz (9)/Matt Checkley (10)
#5DJV - Jonathan Yousey/Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 6-0 - Drew Flickinger (9)/Jacob Mestach (9)
#6DJV - Daniel Robles/Joel Yoder - 6-1 - Nick Sherk (10)/Brennan Yoder (9)

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