Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Concord Match Report

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Tonight was the first time this season that most of our positions on the varsity went out and confidently played with a plan. The plans were mostly simple - play to our strengths, quick with our feet, play to our opponent's weaknesses. But the manner in which we executed them was different. It felt, for the most part, like we believed in ourselves more.

Which was good, because Concord is good. Ranked #15 in the first coach's poll, the Minutemen boast 5 seniors on their varsity (with 3 more sprinkled through the JV ranks). They return 6 of their 7 players from a Regional winning team last fall. So, a good showing against this team is simply a good showing in general.

And each position showed good signs. Liam continues to play his steady game of mixing things up and bringing people to the net, testing their patience. Tonight, Concord senior Alex Serwatka was able to drive balls for winners from the baseline, something that Liam had not really seen yet this season from his other talented opponents. Liam's forehand continues to make strides forward in being a weapon, something we will continue to push in practice.

Caleb showed similar improvement. After a well played first set that didn't show well on the scoreboard, Caleb moved smoothly into a second set where he began to believe in his strokes even more. He hit confidently through his strokes and forced Minuteman senior Freddy Buckingham to be at his best. Caleb was able to use his forehand to attack Buckingham's backhand, and forced some errors there. Caleb also put some pressure on with varied other shots, coming to the net, and a general positive attitude. This set was closer, including Caleb fighting off a match point when down 5-4 to come back and tie the set at 5-5s.

Philip played to his strengths as well. He slammed his forehand and learned more about how to fend off pressure with his backhand. Best of all he discovered a strong passing shot that he used for more than a few "Let's go!" moments. Finding more consistency in this attacking phase remains his practice task.

Nathan and Jonah started their #1D match strong. They are really coming together behind this idea of simple shots to simple spots. However, the experienced pair of doubles players on the other side of the net really hit some fantastic shots as the match moved along. Heavy, hard topspin balls and clean finishes at the net put our #1D away in the end.

And, Braden Bohn... again having to make a last second change. Last week, he filled in at #1S as Liam got sick. Today, he moved up to #2D right before the match we decided to protect another player's injury. He and Tyson didn't have the best first set. They looked out of sync and couldn't string together points. In the second set, they began to play more to their strengths. The outcome was much closer games, including 2 that went our way.

All in all, we didn't score close enough to grab any wins or force any third sets, but the we believed in our strengths. I loved that.

At the JV level, the competition was tighter. Aside from #1SJV, where Aaron Shenk ran into a varsity player from a highly successful #1D player from last year, we were in almost every match.

And I was super proud of Aaron. He never gave up the fight despite being pushed with heavy and hard shots. Even down 7-0, he believed and stroked and came to the net. That was emblematic of most the JV matches.

Playing to strengths continues to be the name of the game. Josh played to his strength of never say die tennis, Matthew played to his forehand strength, Joseph used his consistency, Theo attacked the net... and on down the line.

Some highlights were the debuts of two of our players, Jim Lyu and Jacob Leininger both getting their first match action. Both players played well also, showing smooth strokes and awareness. I loved Jim's hustle, as he ran balls down and lobbed really well.

Joseph and Theo got two matches tonight, and they showed a lot of grit. Their first match was close, and small errors cost them against the big serves and strokes of the Concord team. In their second match, they were a bit unfocused and went down early, struggling with consistency. But credit to them, they made an effort to get back in it and they did.

There were things to love in everybody's matches, which I have listed in the grateful part below. But the match that was the most fun was Matthew's match at #3SJV against a fellow freshman. These two players looked like mirror images of each other. So, naturally, the match went to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Matthew continued to swing through his forehand. He took a 4-1 lead as his opponent was forced into nervous errors because of Matthew's swings. Then Matthew missed a few, which led to his opponent taking the lead. But Matthew didn't stop swinging, even when facing match point. Down 6-5 in the tiebreak, he was able to swing a forehand into the backhand of his opponent, and tie the match up. With that momentum, he looked likely to win, but the tiebreak went back and forth until Matthew had the match point when leading 9-8. Three more confident forehands forced his opponent to hit the ball into the net, and Matthew took away a memorable victory.

I love times like this. Even in a match that we didn't win, Matthew will always have something to remember. Each night is like that. The next match, the next game, the next point - that might be your memorable moment. Be hopeful and be ready!

It was enough that we played our games confidently. Tonight was the first night that I felt like we knew who we were and what our plan was going to be. We can't always control execution of the plan, sometimes we made mistakes, and sometimes the Minutemen just hit better shots. But all together, it was enough to watch us become confident in our own plans.

You are brothers. Matches at home are always a special time for me. Because we only have 5 courts and we have 20 guys on the team, there are typically 13-15 players not on the court, just hanging out and watching their teammates. Yes, there is some foolish behavior as we behave like high schoolers, getting too loud, or losing attention. But most of the time we are cheering, watching, or chatting with our teammates. Its interesting that we call it a home match, because it really does feel like home, with people hanging out together, goofing around, juggling, cheering, and supporting each other. You are brothers.

I am grateful for...
- our confident improvement.
- our ability to make changes.
- Liam's leadership at #1S and control this year.
- Caleb's belief.
- Josiah's wonderful improvement in positioning.
- Christopher's beautiful form.
- Sam's rapidly improving groundstrokes.
- Nathan's simple down-the-middle-solves-the-riddle volleys.
- Aaron's attacking positioning.
- Tyson's intensity and never-say-die attitude.
- Jim's "Nadal-like" topspin forehands.
- Jacob's smooth forehands and backhands.
- Josh's continual quest to improve.
- Jonah's amazing service games.
- Matthew's listening and doing.
- Joseph's steadiness.
- Philip's passing shots.
- Theo's volleys and net play.
- Braden's weapons of serve and forehand.
- Austin's joy.
- for all of you guys!

Lord, let us rest. Let us grow. Let us make mistakes. Let us learn from them. Let us improve. Let us make more mistakes, then forgive ourselves and show love by having faith that it can be made right. That's the beauty of Your love and redemption, you delight in moving everything towards wholeness and toward the right. Towards shalom. Thanks. Move us toward You peace!

#1S - Liam Bradford - 2-6, 1-6 - Alex Serwatka (12)
#2S - Caleb Shenk - 1-6, 5-7 - Freddy Buckingham (12)
#3S - Philip Krabill - 3-6, 3-6 - Bryson Schrock (10)
#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran - 3-6, 0-6 - Nate Slabach (12)/Travis Hermon (11)
#2D - Braden Bohn/Tyson Miller - 0-6, 2-6 - Grant Lucchese (12)/Drew McDugle (12)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Aaron Shenk - 0-8 - Cal Whitaker (12)
#2SJV - Josh Cartwright - 4-8 - Mark Rich (12)
#3SJV - Matthew Dyck - 8-7 (8) - Thomas Burkert (9)
#1DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 6-8 - Gavin Smith (10)/Kayden Cain (10)
#2DJV - Christopher Craw/Austin Shenk - 2-8 - Jack Steele (12)/Alec Eash (11)
#3DJV - Joseph Mounsithiraj/Theo Siemens-Rhodes - 8-5 - Cayden Rohrer (10)/Bailey Morrison (10)
#4DJV - Jacob Leininger/Sam Setiawan - 0-8 - Mitch Whitehead (9)/Brayden Newburn (10)
#5DJV - Jim Lyu/Josiah Schlabach - 6-8 - Eathan Kavanaugh (9)/Sam West (9)

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