Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Climbing Report 1: Jimtown

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Just a special note on this match. Jimtown's coach, Steve Fledderman, let me know before the match that this is his last season coaching tennis. I have the highest respect for all the different coaches in our Sectional, because they have all shown to be great coaches and role models to their players. Coach Fledderman has been kind to me as I started out as a 22 year old fresh out of college trying to figure out how to organize and teach my players. He's had great teams and I remember how great I felt back in 2009 watching his team win their first Sectional. I think they've got a great team again this season, and I wish Coach Fledderman the best of luck. It's been a great honor to compete against him these past 15 seasons.

Varsity Match Summary
Coming into this match, I emphasize one thing to the varsity - this Jimtown team was going to be good, and I wanted to see us show some grit. To stick-to-it and not give up.

Well, we got the chance in the varsity match, and I'd say resoundingly that we responded well.

In each varsity match, play began fairly even. Liam won his first game at #3S, Caleb was even at 2-2 in the beginning of his match, as were #1D and #2D. At #1S, the points were long and the rallies intense. Both players were covered in sweat by the end of the first point.

But as well as things started, they turned south for the Bruins pretty quickly. In fact, despite being tied at 2-2 in three different matches, 6-2 was the closest anyone got in their first set.

Yet, that set us up for the challenge of the night. Who would respond by digging in, showing some energy, staying mentally and physically in the match? Because that's when you actually do get better. When things are hard and you stick to it.

So, basically everyone stuck to it.

The most dramatic results were at the doubles positions. At #1D, we went down 3-0 in the second set and then had a little talk about how to play doubles. Simple, simple, simple. Make the simple shots. And Dustin and Jacob changed their energy and attitudes. Pretty soon, they were swinging the cards around to read 2-3, and then quickly 4-3 for us. Of course, Dustin has a flair for the dramatic, so though we held the lead for much of the set we had to go to a tiebreak. But in the tiebreak, the Bruins prevailed with some timely volleys and overheads to send the #1D match to a third set.

At #2D, the story was much the same. Making the simple shots, showing a lot of hustle, that gave Nathan and Braydon a lead in the second set. We led by one game all the way through the set, 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4 and had a chance to serve it out and go to a third set. Unfortunately, some nerves got to our serves and we couldn't close the set. The Jimmies used that momentum and increasing tentative play on our side to secure the match.

At the singles positions, the second sets were (score wise) mostly like the first sets. However, the difference in attitudes was awesome. Jonathon continued to track down Holden Price's aggressive forehands and low slicing backhands. In fact, toward the end of the match he decided to work on his own aggressive play and get to the net. This attitude of working hard to improve was awesome to see.

Caleb did much the same. He had great energy in the first set as he forced senior Ben Clarke to dig deep as he finished the first set. But in the second set, Caleb lacked energy. After a quick pep talk, Caleb was back to his crisp footwork and positive reactions to his good points.

This is huge. This ability to dig in and stick to it allows us to walk off the courts feeling good. We know when we do this that we have nothing to be ashamed of, that our opponent is just better than us. And last night, the Jimtown team was just better than us and deserved their wins.

But we still had one match to finish, and that was the third set of #1D. Jacob and Dustin raced out to the lead in the third set. Jacob was somewhat injured, so he had to play even more simple in his shots. This may have worked in #1D's favor, because Jimtown became a bit wild in their play. Dustin and Jacob took a 5-2 lead. Then Jimtown found some energy, and we made some tentative mistakes, and all of a sudden it was 5-4. But in the end, Dustin played like a calming senior. After a couple of frustrating double faults, he gathered himself and served two great (but not powerful) serves, hitting great placements out wide on both, to seal the 1 varsity point for the Bruins.

So, this is the first rung of the season for us. But I think we've sealed this step with some good stuff - energy, grit, and the power of focus. Let's climb on up.

JV Match Summary
As often happens, the story of the varsity could be the story of the JV. The JV match tonight was one of great effort and great comebacks, but again we fell just short in the final score.

Highlights definitely included Will Nisley at #1SJV. He went down 1-5, but instead of hanging his head, Will changed strategy. And he picked a great strategy, he decided to make his opponent move. Doing this, he pulled back into the match, getting back to 4-5. He couldn't quite complete the comeback, but the effort was awesome.

That effort was key all the way through the JV lineup. At #2S, Braden Bohn was right with his opponent until Braden's serve kind of fell apart. But when he got to play another match, Braden stayed with his serve and figured it out. At #1DJV, Joel and Philip had to get used to playing an energetic pair on the other side, but they continued to do the things necessary to play good doubles, trying to take the net and get forward.

Jonah and Chris made a sweet comeback, pushing their match to a tiebreak and playing with great energy. Chris had several slams in key moments to win points, but Jonah was all over the place in this match, whipping in his forehands and covering behind Chris. It was awesome to see his energy.

Going down the lineup, Joseph and Tyson played a nervy first match together, but got to play second matches with upperclassmen. Each of them hit much more confidently in the second matches, evidence of their improvement. Theo played the net almost as good as any player on the team, seeking down balls all across the net.

And Aaron and Kameron, well, what can I say. Their togetherness, their joy, their smiles at just swinging their rackets at a moving target - it was awesome. It sums up what I hope for our team, which is why you'll find more about that in the next segment.

In the end, the JV match was good effort with inconsistent execution. I think you'll see that theme show up all throughout the JV season. Consistency comes from great movement and great repetition, and that's where we've got to go next.

Climbing Up (Great Moments of the Match)
For the most part, we'll be having 5 different great moments of the match. As we go up, these moments will more and more exemplify what I hope our team will be like. In other words, the 1st rung and 2nd rungs might just be cool moments, but the top rungs are examples of the type of tennis we should be moving toward.

1st Rung - Just a cool shot from the right position. Dustin Miller, in the midst of he and Jacob's big comeback, slid to toward the middle of the net during a cross court rally - which is exactly what a net player should do. When the Jimmies put up a weak lob, Dustin pounded the ball down into the court and it bounced over into the pine trees.

2nd Rung - Enthusiasm and energy. I loved that I saw this from Jonah Farran tonight. His match was intense, close, and Jonah put his energy and enthusiasm into every stroke. I loved that he celebrated big points, where he had put effort in chasing balls all around the court. I loved that he pumped his fists and jumped in the air.

3rd Rung - Joel Yoder's match winning forehand was awesome. Technique wise, it probably wasn't the thing that I'll be emphasizing ever to my teams. Run as hard as you can then swing as hard as you can isn't sound tennis advice :-) But it makes for one awesome shot, and when you hit it on match point, it definitely makes our list. But 2 things we can definitely take from this. One, Joel totally stuck with the point. He has driven out wide to his backhand corner, and had to flat out sprint to get back to the next ball. Two, when his shot went in, the whole team exploded in cheers and encouragement for our #7DJV match. I love when the team gets excited about absolutely every match. Thanks guys!

4th Rung - Jacob Woolace impressed me in this match. The first serve of the match, Jacob pounded a massive ace. This may have been a bad thing. Because for the rest of the first set, Jacob had it in his mind to hit hard and play big. But in the second set, when he and Dustin were down 3-0, I emphasized to Jacob to play simple doubles. Serves in, make the simple shot, hit the simple volley. And he did that. He listened and turned his game around. The point that most exemplified this was on Jacob's serve. He hit a solid serve (but not a powerful one) and the ball was returned to his forehand. He took the next shot back crosscourt and came forward to the net. The next ball was a lob that was slightly behind him, so he hit a controlled overhead down the middle. The Jimtown player's backhand floated into his forehand volley, and Jacob came close to the net to hit an angled volley with medium pace. Four simple shots, nothing special or crushing, and he had won the point.

5th Rung - JOY! I love when we just love to play tennis. Win, lose, whatever... my heart is full when I see you guys enjoying the game and being together. Last night, Kameron Branum and Aaron Shenk did that. Coming off the court from their #4DJV match, they were full of enthusiasm. "That was the best match I've played." "It was so much fun!" "Can we play together again tomorrow?" "Did you see how my serve improved?" The energy, smiles and joy at the improvement, the joy of playing together, the thrill of competing. They didn't even tell at first whether they'd won or lost :-)

#1S - Jonathon Yousey - 2-6, 1-6 - Holden Price (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 2-6, 2-6 - Ben Clarke (12)
#3S - Liam Bradford - 1-6, 2-6 - Austin Pearison (11)
#1D - Dustin Miller/Jacob Woolace - 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 - Andrew Emeigh (12)/Nate Behrens (11)
#2D - Braydon Harshberger/Nathan Oostland - 2-6, 5-7 - Tim Gardner (11)/Preston Philips (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Will Nisley - 4-6 - Andrew Coble (10)
#2SJV - Braden Bohn - 3-6 - Sam Wort (9)
#1DJV - Philip Krabill/Joel Yoder - 3-6 - riston Ingle (12)/Lucas Flick (10)
#2DJV - Jonah Farran/Chris Craw - 6-5 (6) - Andrew Eaton (10)/Koleton Dover (10)
#3DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Tyson Miller - 3-6 - Nate Hochstetler (12)/Zack Gallippo (9)
#4DJV - Aaron Shenk/Kameron Branum - 6-4 - Peyton Wrathall (11)/Kole Ross (9)
#5DJV - Theo Siemens-Rhodes/Braden Bohn - 2-6 - Chandler Bridgewater (11)/Kayden Wolfe (11)
#6DJV - Philip Krabill/Joseph Mounsithiraj - 6-2 - Jon Sandoval (11)/Christian Vanderworf (9)
#7DJV - Joel Yoder/Tyson Miller - 6-3 - Ben Behrens (9)/Joe Saunders (9)

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