Sunday, August 30, 2015

Prayers from Western

Match Description
It was a good, if long, day for the Bruins at the Western Invitational. Rain delayed the matches for a bit, and we didn't figure out our best tennis early in the day (when we happened to draw the best team), but this ended up being a very valuable tournament for the Bruins as each position began to figure out what is important for them to play their best tennis.

In the morning, we drew the host school, and my brother and sister-in-law's team, the Western Panthers. This was a team that has started the season 3-1, with their only loss being to Westfield, a large strong school on the edge of Indianapolis. The Panthers almost won the Sectional last season, losing 3-2 to Kokomo in the final. They returned a strong core from that team.

Recently, we haven't been starting our matches out very well. Again, we didn't start out well against the Panthers. Ethan lost another first set 0-6, and Jacob and Byeong both struggled as well. #1 doubles was our exception, coming out sharp and taking a quick 6-1 set. Even though #2 doubles started over an hour after the others (because of waiting for courts), they were not on top of their game in the first set either, hitting too many balls out and not playing with their natural energy.

In some cases, the second set brought some answers. Ethan figured out what he has to do to remain in the attack mode, and that he has to do it even if he's not quite confident or doesn't feel like it. #2 doubles learned that you cannot drop your head ever, because that negative energy just kills a doubles team. In both positions, we're starting to get a really important life lesson: Sometimes, if you don't feel it, you start by "faking" it.

In the second sets at the other positions, things just carried on as normal. For #1D, that was great, and they finished off a wonderful 6-1, 6-2 victory. For Byeong and Jacob, that wasn't as good. They struggled to convince themselves that they could win the match against difficult opponents. Both singles positions slumped to 6-1 second set defeats.

Hopes for the match were therefore pinned on Ethan, and after taking a 3-2 lead, the opposing Panther senior made tactical adjustments. Despite some close games, Ethan lost the final set. #2 doubles finished up their match well, winning a third set tiebreak in dominant fashion, 10-5. But the Bruins were 0-1 on the day with another 3-2 loss.

In the next match, we took on the Northwestern Tigers. As matches were ready to go on, off they went. And so Byeong got started before #2 doubles was even finished with Western. He started off slow against Northwestern strong lefty #1. The two players had similar games except that the Tiger had a massive first serve. Byeong fell behind early in the set, but then broke back and saw the set mostly stay on serve. Again, he was lacking the confidence that he could beat a good opponent.

But then Byeong had his breakthrough. It finally sunk in what Seth and I were telling him about moving his feet and hitting his shots. After losing the close first set, Byeong took control early in the second, taking a 4-1 lead. He finished off the set 6-3 and carried his new found confidence into the third set tiebreak. Taking a 9-4 lead, he almost squandered his handful of match points, but finally forced an error from the tall Tiger lefty to win the match in the tiebreak.

At #2 singles, Ethan had already learned his lesson. From the beginning of the match he was confident and attacking. Using his legs, using his length, he began the match confident. Owning a 5-0 lead, his opponent called for the trainer. Unfortunately, he was experiencing some vision problems and had to withdraw. Still, Ethan had started a match confident, playing how he wanted to.

At #3 singles, Jacob Gonsalves jumped out to a big lead as well. With his feet more active and his serve more on, he was able to force many errors from the Northwestern player. He confidently won in two sets that weren't all that close. #1 doubles and #2 doubles followed much the same courses, though #1 doubles faced some of the best volleyers they'd faced all season. What I loved about this match from Brandon and Simon was the way they played simple doubles. Nothing fancy, just correct and well played.

I left the Northwestern match feeling really good. That was a team that had only lost once coming into our match, and we had finished with a 5-0 win. True, they were without some varsity players, but we had learned some things about ourselves early in the day, and were putting them into practice now.

So at 1-1, we played Lafayette Central Catholic next. This team had just lost it's first match of the season to Western in the round before us. Ethan actually started first for us this time, building a 5-1 lead before anyone else got started. And then the rains came.

After an hour or so of squegeeing off the courts, we finally got to play again. And Ethan started where he left off. With clean strokes and powerful volleys, Ethan got us off with a 6-1, 6-1 win. And Byeong rolled on right behind. With his feet moving and his strokes popping, Byeong managed an easy two set win.

At #1 doubles however, we were facing an undefeated team. And quickly, Brandon and Simon faced their first adversity of the day. Playing poorly and feeling pressured, they went down 1-4 to begin the match.  My advice was simple. Every time they made a mistake they were literally turning away from each other in frustration. I advised, turn to each other, show some energy! And they did, and the whole match turned. From 1-4 down, they took a 5-4 lead. Even when Brandon missed a volley that would have given them the set, they turned to each other and picked it up. It was so fun to watch.

Meanwhile, Jacob was having to fight his own mental battles again at #3 singles. Inconsistent strokes and serves were plaguing him. But he was able to right the ship. Down 3-2, he won 9 of the next 10 games to win the first set and then take a 5-0 lead in the second set. Up 5-0, it looked like it would be an easy win. But all the sudden, Jacob's game changed. With several match points he went for too much power, got too nervous, or served too hard. He was pressing. His opponent stopped making easy mistakes, and suddenly it was 5-4.

After a good talk with Seth, Jacob relaxed and went back to his solid game plan from when he took the lead. In four short points, he had won the set 6-4.

#2 doubles struggled more in the last match. Up against their best competition of the day, they struggled to find the winning rhythm. After losing the first set, they gave way a bit to their frustration. After the match, we reminded them that you always have to keep your head up, never show that frustration, even when you don't feel the confidence. It will come.

And it did for the Bruins on the day. We finished in second place, evened our record up against several great teams. I mean, coming into the day our competitors had 2 losses combined amongst the three of them. So it was fun, and it was great tennis, and it was great to be with the guys.


for Jacob
Lord, I pray that you continue to teach Jacob what a strong man You have made him to be. You have blessed him with humor, You have blessed him with skill and we love him. It was great to share a day with him today, to watch him recover and feel better from his sickness, and to have him ride on the squeegee as we pushed the water off the courts :-) Keep working on bringing the best out of Jacob, because he has so much good to give.

for Byeong
God, I thank You for helping the light go on for Byeong today. Keep growing him in confidence and leadership. Keep helping him understand the effort that it takes to be a great player and a great leader. But let him see how rewarding those roles are too. Let him be filled with Your Spirit too, Lord, that he might display to the team the peace that he so often displays. Thanks for Byeong.

for our doubles players
Lord, doubles is such an awesome sport because it mirrors life. A doubles player has a role to play, individual things that they are responsible for, but those things affect the other person he is playing with. The attitude that a doubles player brings onto the court or demonstrates during the match has so much to do with how that match proceeds. Give our doubles players that sheer and savage joy that we talked so much about last season. Let them be examples to the team of how to encourage (and receive encourage) and how to laugh at themselves and how to get together and move on to the next point. But truly, let them see that the life You call us to is much the same... filled with chances to encourage, laugh, make mistakes, be picked up, and keep moving toward You.

for Daniel
Lord, I just want to thank You for Daniel. He brings something special to this team with the energy that he brings to any conversation. I thank You for making each player on our team the way they are, but I was especially thankful for Daniel at this tournament (and on the bus :-)

for the team
May we grow! That's what I love to see, that's what I long to see, that's what I am asking of You. It would be great if our tennis skills and mental abilities grow. But what I really long to see is us moving closer to one another in support and encouragement, and then also moving closer to You. Call us to Your side, Lord, that You can give us all the gifts that You want to. Keep calling us to Your joy!

Moment of Beauty
Lots of great points today. Lots of great tennis, especially once we started figuring out how to play our style - regardless of the opponent. The team that had that figured out all day was #1D, and Simon and Brandon's play was awesome all day long. Brandon's returns were probably my favorite part of the day. Simple, low, and consistent. They were a a simple way of putting on pressure, and something that we could count on all day. Those are the types of shots the whole team needs to start developing. Shots that define who we are because we do them all the time. So Moment of Beauty #1 to Brandon.

For the second moment of beauty, I'll have to give a split "Byeong." #2 doubles both played points that were exactly the type that we've been looking for from them, and I can't ignore either one. In the first match, Jackson opened the match by smashing an overhead right into one of the Western players. It was the type of net aggression we've hoped to draw out of him. In the last match, Lane made safe and smart volleys over and over again, scrambling across the court to flick back a forehand that landed too far in front of Jackson, then recovering for a simple backhand volley down the middle, keeping his hands ready for a forehand volley cross court that got hit by the opponent into the net. That's the type of smart, consistent, active but simple play we've been hoping for. Both deserve the "Byeong," so both get it!


vs. Western
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 2-6, 1-6 - Pranav Haran (10)
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 0-6, 3-6 - Brody Worl (12)
#3S - Jacob Gonsalves - 3-6, 1-6 - John Sullivan (11)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 6-1, 6-2 - Chad Gifford (11)/Justin Groothuis (12)
#2D - Jackson King/Lane Miller - 4-6, 6-1, (10-5) - Kolten Gifford (11)/Tate Lockwood (10)

vs. Northwestern
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 5-7, 6-4, (10-7) - Clayton Douglass
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 5-0, ret. - Kyle Douglass
#3S - Jacob Gonsalves - 6-0, 6-1 - Brevin Sanford
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 6-1, 6-2 - Brayden Chou/Michael Harshman
#2D - Jackson King/Lane Miller - 6-1, 6-2 - No Names Reported

vs. Lafayette Central Catholic
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-1, 6-2 - Patrick Tharp
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 6-1, 6-1 - Adam Novak
#3S - Jacob Gonsalves - 6-4, 6-4 - Hunter Hollinger
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 7-5, 6-3 - Colin McNeely/Garrett Kerr
#2D - Jackson King/Lane Miller - 4-6, 1-6 - Luke Seimers/Jonah Switzer

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