After Tuesday's match, I was beat. We didn't feel in sync. I didn't feel like the lineup was right. I felt pressure to make it better, but I knew I couldn't make it better. Only the players pulling together, supporting each other, and working hard could make it right.
So, winning tonight's match in dramatic fashion wasn't just exhilarating, nerve-wracking and joyous - it was a special kind of joy. It was a salving joy. A joy that is great for right now, and a joy that makes what was pulled apart and out of joint feel so much better. And honestly, because of the way we responded and played, even a loss with this kind of play would have been salving.
For the varsity match, we decided to switch some things around. Simon and Brandon had played great tennis last year at #1D, so we decided to put them together again. Lane is a solid doubles player and Dustin has been playing great this season, so they seemed solid as well. Lucas and Daniel have been challenging each other in singles, so we put them both there today.
But Byeong stayed in his #1S spot, and he took care of it well today. In both his first and second set he played focused tennis to take a lead, which put in him great positions to finish it. He had a quick win, and was the second position off the court. We had lost at #2S, where Lucas had played incredibly well but couldn't find the needed points against Red Hawk #2 Hugh Birky. Birky played awesome tennis, honestly, and I was very impressed with his strategy throughout the match. He pushed Lucas back early in the points and made it hard for Lucas to find ways to attack. At #3S, Daniel fought and fought but found a similar problem against Simon Myers. He couldn't find the ways to finish off points and find ways to win.
So that left us with two positions that we had to win, #1D and #2D. On the good side, we had won the first sets in both of those matches. At #1D, Simon and Brandon looked like they hadn't missed a beat. They volleyed well, made simple and aggressive plays, and threw in a couple spectacular serves. At #2D, Lane and Dustin got down 4-1 to start the match, and were playing fairly tentative. Suddenly, that turned around as they began to attack the net and drive the ball down the line. The #2D went to a tiebreak, which we pulled off at 7-3.
So, we needed one more set each to take the match. While we were working on that, some fabulous JV matches were going on. Joel and Tommy played an excellent #2DJV match, getting a 9-7 win in the first round of competition. Also awesome were the comebacks that the JV made. Jonathon Yousey started off down 1-6 and then 2-7 in his #1SJV match. Suddenly, he started attacking the net and putting some pressure on and he pulled all the way back to 6-7. Unfortunately, the momentum stalled there and he lost 6-8. At #3SJV, Caleb Shenk started off not playing his best but soon turned on the consistency and the great groundstrokes. He was able to finish his match with an 8-5 win.
Back at the varsity, #1D began to make some mistakes of judgment and didn't play toward their strengths in the second set. On the other hand, the Red Hawks did. They hit excellent volleys and really got their serves going, and defeated us in the second set. So, #1D came down to a third set. And the #2D slowly crawled on, with Lane and Dustin taking a lead in the second set.
As Simon and Brandon got back to their simple aggression in the third set, they were able to open up a lead in the third set. They went up 5-2 and were able to work their way to some match points against Diego Torres's serve. At #2D, the Bruins took a 5-4 lead and also worked their way to a match point. In fact, both #2D and #1D had match points at exactly the same time. And they both lost them at the same time :-) However, #1D got it back 2 points later. Despite blowing an awesome chance to end with an overhead, they won the match and tied the varsity score at 2-2.
Which meant all eyes on #2D. After the Red Hawks denied Dustin and Lane's match point with a perfectly placed lob, they rode that momentum to a second set victory. So #2D went to a third set, to determine the team match.
While we waited, the JV match began to wrap up. Braydon and Christopher played some excellent tennis. Braydon found a great rhythm on his backhands and Christopher actually had his first competitive point aggressively into the net player. They were able to wrap up Chris's first competitive win too!
Back in the third set at #2D, the set built the tension slowly. Goshen won the first game, then the Bruins took a 2-1 lead. Just when it looked like we might build to 3-1 or 4-1, the Red Hawks stole the momentum with a strategy change of attacking the net and they took a 4-3 lead. But Dustin and Lane remained calm, and stroked their way to a 5-4 lead. With the lead at 5-4, they had two chances to finish the match, but Bobby Sessa and Drake Crowder came up with incredible shots in the pressure of that moment, hitting solid volleys and scrambling points to stay alive. Then Sessa and Crowder took the lead at 6-5.
Looking bleak, Dustin and Lane scalded returns in the next game to push the final set to a tiebreak. With the match on the line, Lane stepped up and smashed a serve into the corner then slapped a winning forehand return. Dustin did the same and suddenly the Bruins had a 3-0 tiebreak lead. The guys built that lead to 5-1 and then Lane had the lucky shot of the match, an overhead got smashed right at him and Lane threw his racket up in defense. The ball ricocheted off for a perfect lob, giving the Bruins a 6-1 lead. The next point saw a Red Hawk forehand sail long, and we had won the match.
It was exciting. And it was so much what this team has needed. We've played several matches starting the season and at tennis camp. They were all against good teams in Northridge and Angola, and we kept coming close but not quite. The disconcerting thing was that we kept playing tight and not quite fluidly during those big points of the match, out of coordination, in ataxia, like the Northridge post said.
Tonight however, was a salving night. It was the medicine that we needed. We needed to know what it feels like to play big points under pressure. To make comebacks, to hit through rough patches, to strive together. That was the salve, that was the thing that felt right. In moments of pressure, the team was there, cheering and encouraging, watching and caring. When we do things together, that is a great remedy for whatever ails us.
#1S - Byeong Min Lim - 6-1, 6-2 - Jacob Grewe (12)
#2S - Lucas Brownsberger-Keyes - 0-6, 0-6 - Hugh Birky (12)
#3S - Daniel Robles - 3-6, 1-6 - Simon Myers (11)
#1D - Simon Hurst/Brandon Nguyen - 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 - Logan Troyer (12)/Diego Torres (10)
#2D - Dustin Miller/Lane Miller - 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (1) - Bobby Sessa (12)/Drake Crowder (10)
#1SJV - Jonathon Yousey - 6-8 - Wes Beck (10)
#2SJV - Liam Bradford - 3-8 - Mitchell Yoder (12)
#3SJV - Caleb Shenk - 8-5 - Ryan Marmelink (9)
#4SJV - Jonah Farran - 4-8 - Wyatt Fisher (9)
#5SJV - Angel Torres - 0-8 - ???
#1DJV - Jackson King/Jacob Woolace - 4-8 - Nathanael Wertz (12)/Ben Bontrager-Singer (12)
#2DJV - Joel Yoder/Tommy Nguyen - 9-7 - Austin Peeler (10)/Nathan Burns (12)
#3DJV - Philip Krabill/Nathan Oostland - 8-9 (3) - Josh Haimes (10)/Anton Pham (10)
#4DJV - Braydon Harshberger/Christopher Craw - 8-2 - Kobe Gritzmaker (9)/Braxton Kincaid (10)