Thursday, September 20, 2018

Portage Tournament Match Report

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There was so much going on Saturday, it is really hard to give a play-by-play. I got here at 6:30 to prepare for the JV leaving for their tournament and then we got back around 8:30. So, all in all, it was a 14 hour day for me and many of these dedicated guys. But, I will tell you, it was a good day!

We had so many reasons to be proud. Last year when we competed in this tournament, each position got 1 win and we finished in 7th place. That's because most of us last year got our 1 win over the team that eventually came in 8th place - Triton. This year, each position got a win as well, but our wins were all over the board. It was enough for us to get 5th place, and we were 2 points from 3rd. For perspective, one more win from anybody would have been enough to move us into third.

And we finished ahead of at least one team that is currently ranked in their district - Centerville. So that was a good thing. But probably the best thing to come from this tournament is that we are starting to turn the corner and learn to take the big shots when they are available. Let's go position by position and look at the tourney.

At #1S, Liam was unfortunate to draw the eventual champion in the first round. He did just as well as anyone else in the tournament, but unfortunately that still meant a 6-0, 6-0 loss. In the second round, Liam matched up against a Portage player who came out really fired up and hitting his shots with power and placement. Liam was down 3-2, but soon found his footing in the match. As the excitement faded, Liam won the last 10 games of the match to enter the 5th place match. In that match, Liam faced another fast and powerful player, Merrillville's Justin Jackson. Jackson had enough speed to run down Liam's forehand and enough power to cause Liam problems if Liam floated a short ball. Liam put up a really good fight in this match, especially in hanging on in the second set, but ended in 6th place.

Caleb started out rough at #2S. He drew Chesterton, a team that has been consistently ranked in the top of their district and finished a clear 2nd place at this tournament. He played well, but left the match with a sense of having been able to do better. Like there was a level of play that was just beyond him. He was right, and he found it in his next match. His strokes found a comfort level. His serves began to go in and he put himself in position to win. My favorite thing about this match was our conversation right before he closed out the match. I asked Caleb who was the person who hit all those good serves to give Caleb the lead in the first set. He replied, "I was." I gave the fence a little fist bump and said, "That's right, you were!" Then I bounded away smiling. Behind me I heard Caleb say, "I get it." Then he confidently served out the match. He carried that confidence right into the next match as well, quickly getting a 5th place victory over Merrillville. So two great wins on the day for Caleb.

#3S was ridiculous. Philip had to fight for every single point in every single match. He played excellent, in fact I thought that the way Philip controlled points he was the second best player in his #3S bracket. But unfortunately, he had some drops in that consistency that caused him to have to play 3 (!) third set tiebreaks. Third set tiebreaks are nerve wracking because they decide the match. But Philip fought through all three of them. In his first match, Philip was clearly the better player but stopped moving his feet and stopped playing his shots at the end of the first set. In the second set, we knew that he could do it. Philip kept his energy up and captured the second set and really dominated the third set tiebreak.

In round 2, Philip kept the energy up, but faded as the match went on. By the end of the second set against Highland, Philip was no longer controlling the points and putting the ball where he wanted to. That continued into the tiebreak, and Philip fell into the 3rd place match. In that 3rd place match, Philip looked like he really didn't want to be there in the first set. But suddenly he flipped a switch for the second set. He has winning all the close game, and won the set 6-0 to force his third third set tiebreak of the day. And while this one was close, Philip again didn't quite take control the way he had in the second set. He hung around, but his Portage opponent pulled away at the end. Philip had to settle for great memories and 4th place.

#1D and #2D had similar days. Both drew interesting opponents for their first match, Highland for #1D and Centerville for #2D. These are both teams that have traditionally been really good at their doubles positions, but we came out in these matches on fire, and both doubles teams won their first sets 6-1. The second sets were closer, as we lost some of our confidence and fire. #1D won their set 6-4, but #2D fell by the same score. That sent Will and Tyson to a tiebreak, which they nervously went back and forth in. Neither team ever led the tiebreak by more than 2 points. At the end, we were able to run off two excellent points in a row to take the tiebreak 10-8.

So both positions advanced to the semi-finals where they ran into St. Joseph's. St. Joe's is state ranked right now, and for good reason. Both of these teams had powerful strokes and beautiful strategies. They covered the court well. We kept our effort high, but struggled to come up with enough power and placement of our own to hurt the Indian doubles teams. Nathan and Jonah began to have a lot of success in the second set, probably playing some of the best tennis of the season. They did this because they were confidently putting pressure on their opponents. It wasn't quite enough to force the deciding tiebreak however.

In our 3rd place matches, it was a tale of different motivations. We were tired and at the end of a long day, and that affects both teams. In the #1D, Centerville was the team feeling that drag more in the first set. At #2D, it was us feeling the weight of the whole day. Nathan and Jonah took the first set at #1D, and we didn't at #2D. In both second sets, we struggled to find the aggressive shots to fight back against our opponents. We were tentative, and began to get frustrated. The truth is on a hot, long day where we'd been on the court for more than 4 hours - these feelings are hard to deal with. We didn't really have an answer. As #1D was forced to a tiebreak, and fighting frustration they quickly went down 5-0 in the tiebreak. That proved to much to recover from, and both doubles positions took 4th place.

All in all, it was a good day. No one position finished lower than 6th, quite an improvement over last year where almost all of our positions finished in 7th. Also, we were much more competitive even in our losses, with half of our losses on the day coming in 3rd set tiebreaks. If we had turned one of those tiebreaks around, we would have finished 3rd (!)

So, we capped off the good day with a trip to BWs, where we watched Notre Dame eek out their win in football and watched the Cubs cut their magic number down. Can't wait to hit the court again with this rapidly improving team!

It was enough to have fun and memorable matches. I won't easily forget Philip's 3 tiebreaks, #2D's epic pressure win in the first round, Caleb's realization that he can do it and more. It is enough to make these type of memories together.

You are brothers. You just spent this 13 hour day together, with really no place to hide. You all had your matches, you all watched each other's matches, you were all concerned for one another, you all collapsed in the shade together in between matches :-) You were brought together like brothers.

I am grateful for...
- the parents that came to support us.
- the good attitude you kept on a long day.
- the players who committed to cheering for their teammates.
- the wonderful fruit (and other food) that was provided.
- a time to relax at BWs after it was all over.
- safety on long travels.
- the sunset as we drove home.

God, You are good to us. Thanks for a safe day, but thanks for the patience and understanding that the players showed within it. I pray that You will help us learn from this day, especially about challenging the patterns that we don't think we can change. Show us that there is always a place a little deeper for us to dig in to, whether that is in sports or in our relationships. Thanks God, for going to that place for us.

#1S - Liam Bradford
Round 1 - St. Joseph - Thomas Pries (12) - 0-6, 0-6
Round 2 - Portage - Tyler Polarek (11) - 6-3, 6-0
Round 3 - Merrillville - Justin Jackson (12) - 1-6, 3-6

#2S - Caleb Shenk
Round 1 - Chesterton - Chad Whelen (12) - 2-6, 2-6
Round 2 - Centerville - Evan Witte (9) - 6-2, 6-3
Round 3 - Merrillville - Cameron Louthan (12) - 6-1, 6-3

#3S - Philip Krabill
#3S - Merrillville - Noah Terpstra (10) - 3-6, 6-4, (10-4)
#3S - Highland - Daniel Wilson (11) - 6-3, 4-6, (6-10)
#3S - Portage - Zander Marcotte (10) - 1-6, 6-0, (7-10)

#1D - Nathan Oostland/Jonah Farran
#1D - Highland - Tyler Schmidt (12)/Zach Benninghoff (12) - 6-1, 6-4
#1D - St. Joseph - Andrew Sill (12)/Max Blumentritt (11) - 1-6, 4-6
#1D - Centerville - Kody Brown (11)/Nate Reed (11) - 6-2, 3-6, (2-10)

#2D - Will Nisley/Tyson Miller
#2D - Centerville - Brian Crawley (10)/Mason Cunningham (10) - 6-1, 4-6, (10-8)
#2D - St. Joseph - Riley Mandell (11)/Nathan Roth (11) - 1-6, 1-6
#2D - Merrillville - Ivan Sahagun (12)/Josh Raddatz (12) - 1-6, 1-6

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