Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sectional Recap, Part 2

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.

Saturday, Sectional Final v. Goshen

After a long night against Jimtown, we came back Saturday morning feeling fairly refreshed. It was a morning we had been waiting for most of the season. It was chance to even our record against Goshen, who had given us one of our two losses. It was a chance to win a Sectional. It was a chance to play tennis.

We gathered at 9:00 for some prayer and pep talk, then picked up the pre-tournament donuts for the coaches and we were off to the Racquet Club. Once again we had 2 courts to begin, so #1S and #1D were set to play first. They warmed up on the one court we were allotted with Byeong while Sol, Ryan, and Ethan hit volleys beside the court. I walked around humming songs to myself. I think we felt nervous, but good.

The first two matches to get started went in opposite directions, and not the way I had been thinking. #1D, Hans and Simon, our rocks through most of the season, starting off nervous and over-thinking every swing. Meanwhile, Goshen's team was swinging freely and cracking incredible shots. Quickly we found ourselves down 2-5 in a match I thought we had to win if we had a shot of winning this Sectional.

But at #1S, Jesse was the one who was attacking and playing on the nerves of Goshen's #1. Jesse had his deep shots keeping Hudson Kay on the baseline and then was attacking the short balls with abandon. He gathered a 5-2 lead and was playing excellent. I knew we needed one of these matches, so it looked okay.

Then it got really awesome. First of all, Byeong came on the courts, warmed up and then played amazing tennis. He swung freely, attacked from the baseline, hit the ball hard and forced Goshen's #2S player, Evan Beck, into some uncharacteristic errors. Byeong was able to relax and play the way that he wanted to. It was truly an awesome set, and it was quick, as Byeong captured the first set 6-1.

In line with that awesomeness, #1D began a comeback. Seth told them they were thinking too much, and I reminded them to smile and the comeback was on. Hans was whipping forehands all over the court, Simon was finishing overheads and volleys at the net. They won a game, then another, then tied it at 5, then went ahead 6-5, and finally finished the set with a 7-5 win. While this was happening, Jesse had finished his first set. So at the three positions that were on the court, we had won every first set.

I began to feel more relaxed. Especially as #1D continued to cruise through their second set. They had completely flipped the momentum and the aggression. They were controlling the points, they were putting the Redskins on their heels, they were taking away the middle of the net. They took a 4-1 lead, then began to think too much. Goshen took 2 games with some re-enlivened play. But Hans and Simon finished the match in the next two. Bruins 1, Redskins 0.

Byeong and Jesse's matches had flipped in the second set. Jesse was finding less chances to take the net and rallying out long points at the baseline, with Hudson Kay winning just a few more than Jesse. But it was enough to give Hudson a lead in the second set. Meanwhile, Evan Beck had found his game at #2S and was giving Byeong all he could handle. Byeong was still winning his serve, but couldn't break through on Evan's. This gave Evan a 4-3 lead headed into the crucial 8th game at #2S.

And while it would take Jesse until the third set to turn things around, Byeong got it turned around right there. He moved his feet and moved Evan all around the court. After breaking Evan to make it 5-4, Byeong served out the match with relative ease. Bruins 2, Redskins 0.

#2D got started and Jesse continued his third set. But for Jesse, the pattern didn't change. He was still losing just a few too many points in the long baseline rallies. His serve was holding up, but he too was having trouble breaking. Down 5-2 in the third, I encouraged him to just go for it. Turn up the aggression. Attack the net. Whatever could change the pattern.

At #2D, Goshen came out blazing. Their tall left-handed player, Peter Vukovich, slammed through the first game with massive serves. His partner, Zach Ganger, absolutely blasted passing shots right around our stunned net players, Ethan and Ryan. Despite trying to rally past some tight nerves, we found ourselves almost shut out of the first set, losing it 6-1.

So, it looked like the whole match would come down to Sol Brenneman v. Luke Rush, taking the court at #3S. And that match started out close but promising. Sol looked to be on his game, serving well and not allowing Rush to get to the net. Sol was attacking from the beginning, looking to take the match to Rush. It was tight, but Sol held a close lead through most of the first set.

#2D didn't look like it was getting any better, as Goshen rushed ahead to a 3-0 lead in the 2nd set. But Jesse's match had completely turned on his decision to get more aggressive. From 5-2 down, Jesse fought through several close games to tie the match back up at 5-5. He couldn't get the game to go up 6-5, but forced a tiebreak right after that. 7 more points and we'd be Sectional champions. And Jesse won the first 2. I was so excited. I wanted so bad for Jesse to be the one to bring the Sectional to us. Unfortunately, that's not how things worked out. Hudson won 3 of the next 4 points, and they switched sides tied at 3. Then Hudson won the next three for a 6-3 lead. Jesse made it 6-4, but then watched a forehand sail long to lose the match 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4).

So, it all came down to Sol's match. As we turned to look down there, Sol won the first set, finishing it off at 6-3. His aggression, attacking and energy could be felt across all of the courts. It was awesome. But did it all come down to him?

Not necessarily, as #2D had suddenly made an amazing turnaround. Down 6-1, 3-0, having lost 9 of the first 10 games, I told them something simple: "You'll be mad at yourself if you don't try to have fun." I don't know if that did anything, but boy did their effort spin completely around. Ethan started to be the aggressor from the baseline, rather than the Redskin players. Ryan took dominant control of the net. And they began to return serve even better. A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead! As Goshen got frustrated it was clear that we would win the set. We did indeed, and were onto a third. One more set, either from Sol or #2D, and we were the Sectional champion.

And to be honest, Sol made it somewhat anti-climatic. He continued to put pressure on his opponent, sweeping balls into the crosscourt corner, into the backhand, finishing with volleys and slams. Many times Rush just looked on as Sol put the ball past him. Leading 5-1, Sol had a couple opportunities to finish the match by breaking Rush's serve. As #2D waited to start a third set, to see if it was even necessary, Sol lost the game to go to 5-2, his serve.

#2D started and lost the first game. But it soon didn't matter. Sol hit his serves his spin and power, and Rush made a few tense errors. On match point, Sol came forward to a short ball and spun it deep into the backhand corner. Attacking the net, Sol watched with excitement as the ball bounced short, just in front of the net on his opponents side. Bruins 3, Redskins 1.

Our fans behind the big window cheered and threw up their hands in silent applause. I clapped loudly and turned and gave a signature Sol double fist pump to them and our team that was out there watching. I jogged over to Sol and gave him a hug, and then jogged over to #2D to give them a hug as well. The IHSAA, who was running the Sectional, requested that we stop their match since the team score had been decided and they didn't want to pay for the court time anymore. We decided to play a 10 point tiebreak to finish it, which we lost. But even though the final score was 3-2, we had still become Sectional Champions.

Our team came out onto the court with cheers and hugs for Sol, for each other. I was extremely proud watching the team unity, as JV players cheered and hugged and clapped each other on the back and truly felt like a part of the excitement. We took pictures, sang Sarasponda, and smiled a lot. It was an incredible win for the Bruins. To be the team standing at the end of this Sectional was saying something. It will be a memory that we will all treasure, along with the many others we've built with our brothers.

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