Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sectional Recap, Part 1

I haven't really been writing match recaps this year, choosing instead to write letters about things that I felt stood out or needed to be said about the match. But it future years, I figure I'd love to have a space that describes exactly what happened this past weekend, so I decided I'd write this out. The letters mean more... so read those here if you haven't. But if you want the match story, read on.

Friday, Sectional Semi-Final v. Jimtown

As we entered into this match, we knew that we had only 2 losses on the season, and this Jimtown team had been one of them. We were confident that we could turn the score around, but I knew something that I never told my team: The Jimmies had become an even stronger team since we had last played them. First of all, they had returned a senior to their lineup who had not played the first time. Brock Johnson had been placed at #1D and made that team much stronger. Also, that meant that one of their #1D players slid down to #2D, and that made that team stronger. And #2D was a position we lost the first time. So I was nervous.

Under rare sunny skies and in cool temperatures, we took the courts at Goshen Middle School. It looked as if we'd have clear skies until 8:00 at night, so despite a rainy week we started the matches outside. Immediately it was clear that we were well prepared to play. At every position, we took early leads. In fact, at several positions we took big early leads. #1S, #1D, and #2D all raced out to early 4-1 leads. Sol and Byeong looked a bit tentative in their matches, but both had leads as well. Soon, we were on the brink of taking first sets at the three positions where we had big leads. #2D took the first set, and just before #1D followed the cold rain began to fall.

It rained hard and short, but it soaked the courts. It would be an hour or two before they'd dry, if there was no rain, and then we'd be dealing with darkness. So we decided to head to the Eastlake Elkhart Racquet Club to finish the match indoors. We were leading all 5 matches, so I wished we could have just kept playing. Stopping and moving gave Jimtown the opportunity to refocus.

And when we got to the racquet club we were only allotted 2 courts. That meant that the pressure would be ramped up. A loss might feel bigger because the next player or team would know that it had already happened. But we were in a comfortable position at least, leading all the matches.

The first matches to be put on court were #1D and #1S. #1D were two points away from winning the first set, and when the match restarted, they won the 2 points in quick order and started out the second set with a win as well. Jesse at #1S was up 5-1 and lost the first game indoors, but then settled in and won the next to take the set 6-1.

At the very least, that meant that he'd stay on the court for awhile, which was good for team mentality. #1D finished up their work quickly in the second set, with Simon especially sparkling on his serves. They guaranteed the first point for us while Jesse played on in a tight second set.

#2D took the court next, up a set but down a game in their second set. They went back and forth and back and forth just like Jesse, but always seemed to be up a game on the changeovers. They broke serve early in the set, and held on to that break all the way to a 6-4 second set win. The set was remarkable for its aggression, as both Jimtown and Bethany attacked the net and served with power. In fact, at one point Ryan Duckworth hit an overhead so hard it bounced in and then hit the ceiling of the racquet club!

This gave us a 2-0, and Jesse was still finishing his #1S match. He had hung close in a tight second set, but ending up dropping that set. So he has headed to a third and deciding set, and we needed one more point. Byeong Min took the second court at #2S, leading 4-2 in his first set. As #1S entered the third set, Byeong stroked the ball confidently around the court to secure a 6-2 first set win. In the regular season, Jimtown freshman Holden Price had run down everything that Byeong hit. In this Sectional match, Byeong was finishing well from the net and had that extra level of consistency. He began to build a slight lead in the second set as well.

In the meantime, Jesse's #1S match finished with him falling 6-2 in the final set. It was a great effort at turning around an early loss, but unfortunately the result was the same. Sol Brenneman took the court for the final match of the night, a #3S match he was leading 4-3. Quickly, in about 9 points, he won the first set and surged ahead in the second. It looked to be a race between him and Byeong as to who would finish and secure our third point. But then, Sol lost a little focus and his opponent really picked up his play. With Sol leading 4-2, the Jimtown opponent Michael Gray smashed forehands and served and tied things back at 4-4 in the second set.

Luckily, Byeong Min finished his match off at about this time. We had a 3-1 lead and had won the match! We decided to let Sol finish off his match, and he won the next two games to win 6-4. The move indoors hadn't hurt us, and we'd played well under the indoor pressure to win the match 4-1. This was a turnaround from the 3-2 loss we'd suffered in the first match of the season. And we moved on to the Sectional Final against Goshen.

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