Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Prayers from Merrillville

Match Description
What a long day of matches this Saturday was. We left Bethany in the pouring rain at 7:00 AM, which stopped around 8:45 as we approached Merrillville. After waiting for the rain to stop, play got started at 10:45, about 45 minutes late.

When we did get started, each of the players got off to a good start in the first round. #1 doubles was the only team to hit the courts in the first set of matches sent onto the court. And they were off quickly. They won 6-0, 6-0 over Merrillville opponents who were full of smiles, jokes, and compliments. My favorite quote: "Hey dude, for real, you got to slow down that serve cause I got to make 1 return." I also loved when Brandon whiffed an overhead and his opponents both broke out laughing. Good times, things I'll remember.

At #2 singles, Ethan Lapp was rematched with Triton's Mace Eads. Ethan started off as he had when we last played at Triton, attacking his way to a 6-1 first set win. The second set tightened up a little bit, but Ethan still held the lead the whole way, finishing a 6-1, 6-3 win. Down at #3 singles, Dustin Miller drew the eventual champion of his position in the first round. Dustin played well and lost 6-2, 6-1 (which was the closest match the Centerville player had on the day).

With Byeong drawing the bye at #1 singles, Lane and Jackson were our only ones left to finish up. They had drawn Wawasee, and came out playing really good tennis. They attacked they stayed consistent and won a first set fairly easily. The match tightened up in the second set, but they were able to pull out a tiebreak by forcing errors from the Warriors.

So, 4 of our 5 positions had advanced into the winner's side of the bracket, fighting for 1st-4th place. In the second round, #1 doubles got the first call. They were matched up against Portage, who had the best #1 doubles record of any of the teams in the tourney. In the first set, Simon and Brandon stayed close and on serve all the way to 4-4, but then lost the next 2 games to lose 6-4. In the next set, Brandon and Simon played some of their best tennis of the season and won the second set 6-4. To close the match, they played a third set tiebreak to 10. #1 doubles went down early and could never quite recover. But it was a very well played match!

So, Simon and Brandon would be playing for 3rd, but Ethan and Byeong played their second round matches and won both of them easily. This put Ethan and Byeong into the championships of their positions. Ethan's match in the 2nd round was some of his best play on the season, striking the ball deep and attacking behind it. Byeong got many compliments on his game, but even more exciting to me, his opponent's coach came and complimented Byeong on his kindness and courtesy. I love compliments like that!

At the #3 singles positon, Dustin powered through his next match by getting into a good rhythm. He came to the net, he kept the ball in, and he used his serve. At #2 doubles, Lane and Jackson matched up against a team from Highland in the semi-final. This Highland team had a lot of bounce. They were athletic and moved quickly and caused problems for Lane and Jackson when they didn't hit balls with confidence. They also had great serves. When I look at the Highland team, they are a great example of how energy and knowing your strengths can cause problems. We hung close, but then couldn't stay committed to finding the answers in the 2nd set. We began to get overwhelmed with frustration, especially in the face of their belief and energy.

Which set up the final round of matches, Byeong and Ethan playing from championships, doubles both playing for 3rd, and Dustin playing for 5th. Dustin played awesome in the final, defeating Portage, a team that we were close to in the team points competition. Dustin was ultra consistent and forced errors from his opponent. It was a great template of the type of match we hope to see Dustin play.

At the doubles positions, we just didn't come out with a lot of confidence or energy at all. We looked as if we wanted the tournament to be done. It was understandable, as we had tough losses in the second round. But both doubles teams underperformed in their final matches, and fell to good-but-not-great opponents.

Which left us waiting on the singles matches. Ethan played a wonderful match, keeping the ball in play, stroking with pace and depth, attacking the net and forcing errors. And he still lost 0-6, 0-6. In each game, every time, he couldn't seem to find the finishing points. He'd get the ad or be leading 40-30 and then couldn't finish things off. Credit to this goes to his opponent from Centerville, who was just a great, consistent, having-all-the-answers type of player.

And so Byeong was left to play the best match of the tournament. He matched with fellow lefty Micah Weigal, a Portage senior. Both guys served and stroked the ball with pace and placement. Both wanted to come to the net after hitting savage approach shots. It was fun to watch the match. It was all decided on who had the confidence to go for their shots. In the first set, Weigal came out on top with some timely choices to attack. Then he got tentative toward the end of the second set, and Byeong pulled out the set after a 20 minute game in which he finally broke Weigal's serve.

In the tiebreak, Byeong came out tentative and Weigal did not. Weigal took a big lead, up 9-2, before Byeong started to hit his shots. Byeong won 3 of the next four points, but it was a little too late. Byeong needed to be looser and more aggressive earlier in the tiebreak to have challenged more.

So, Byeong finished 2nd, as did Ethan. Both doubles got 4th and Dustin finished in 5th. That all added up for a team finish of 4th, 2 points behind Highland for 3rd and 4 points behind Portage for 2nd. Had one match gone our way, we'd have finished 3rd. 2 more wins and we'd have finished 2nd. It wasn't our best play, but it was a good day of learning. We have to relax, and realize that there is not expectations. Just sheer and savage joy.

We got to experience that joy as we sat together and ate. Burgers, fries and ice cream... a good way to pull this team back together to what should be at the root. That is: a brotherhood gathered around tennis, hoping to learn to be better followers of Christ.

I've been thinking and praying a lot for the whole team as I've processed this past weekend. Lord, here are my brief prayers for each player (and coach).

for Byeong
Lord, I pray that You will fill Byeong with energy. Let that energy bring him belief. Let him be the leader that You have called him to be, as he pursues You with his heart.

for Ethan
Thank You for the way that Ethan has continued to stay committed through this season. Despite disappointments, I thank You that he has continued to believe and improve. Let his listening and work be an example for the team.

for Jacob
Lord, heal Jacob. Let him come back from his sickness fully healthy. Let him feel Your love in his inner being as well, healing any hurt, doubt or fear he has. Thanks for his goodness.

for Dustin
God, I want to see Dustin grow in his confidence. Let him be certain of the strengths he has, both in tennis and as a wonderful person. Thank You for his kindness and understanding.

for Simon
I pray that You release the weight he feels on his shoulders. Let him play with focus and joy.

for Brandon
Lord, I pray rest for Brandon. I pray for him to be the best player that he can be, and judge himself only on his effort rather than his results. I pray that he can be a steady player, supporting Simon and inspiring the team. Thank You for his presence on the team, thank You for letting him be thoughtful and engaged.

for Jackson
God, lift up Jackson's head. Let him breathe into the wind his fears, and have hope in You. You are always faithful to those of us who seek You. Speak into Jackson's heart that it is Your love that makes him important and worthy, not anything that he does.

for Lane
Lord, Lane has put a lot of work into this season. Bring him the confidence that should go along with that work. Give him a dazzling end to the season, where he plays his best tennis and uses his best gifts to lead the team toward joy and toward You.

Moment of Beauty
I love hanging out with my team. It was beautiful all day long to sit around and talk tennis with you.

My favorite points of the day came in the #1D match with Portage. Several times during the match, we came up with fistpumpingly awesome plays. Yes, I just made up a new word. Unfortunately, there were so many different points during the day that I've forgotten the specifics :-) I also know that Ethan played some very fun to watch attacking tennis during his second match of the day.

But for a single point that I remember, I'll go with Byeong's drop shot return in the last game of the second set of the championship match. His opponent pounded a serve into Byeong's backhand, and Byeong sliced under it with beautiful touch. His shot barely skimmed the net, and landed softly with backspin a foot or two.

Round 1
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - Bye
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 6-1, 6-3 - Mace Eads (Triton)
#3S - Dustin Miller - 2-6, 0-6 - Skyler Benedict (Centerville)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 6-0, 6-0 - Derel Shell/T.J. Sabbath (Merrillville)
#2D - Lane Miller/Jackson King - 6-3, 7-6 (5) - Evan Krueger/Chase Jones (Wawasee)

Round 2
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-0, 6-0 - Matthew Cotner (Highland)
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 6-2, 6-0 - Tyler Butustak (Highland)
#3S - Dustin Miller - 8-4 - Justin Jackson (Merrillville)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 4-6, 6-4, (6-10) - Kody McGuire/Dengke Weng (Portage)
#2D - Lane Miller/Jackson King - 4-6, 2-6 - Nick Swetz/Christian Vasquez (Highland)

Round 3
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 4-6, 7-5, (5-10) - Micah Weigal (Portage)
#2S - Ethan Lapp - 0-6, 0-6 - Nolan Witte (Centerville)
#3S - Dustin Miller - 8-2 - Alex Bourge (Portage)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 0-6, 3-6 - Nick Donsbach/Zac Vassar (Highland)
#2D - Lane Miller/Jackson King - 3-6, 3-6 - Nathan Cheek/Bennett Walther (Centerville)

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