Our depth players picked the perfect time to play their worst tennis, because we brought the Avengers with us yesterday.
1st singles: My junior wunderkind has been undefeated at singles all year, including several 1st singles wins but she's yet to be challenged. Yesterday was her stiffest test yet, against a player whose only lost was to our best player (Who played 1st doubles yesterday) and our girl won't be able to hide anymore, because she won in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.
It was just a masterful display of frustrating a big hitter who could not deal with a steady, patient player who does not make errors. It was awesome.
2nd singles: I did not match us up to win this, so it didn't matter. I have a player whose family does not want her playing indoors, so I knew this might be an issue as the rivals have 3 indoor courts (and 4 outdoor) but it was raining when we got there. Long story short, I talked to the mother (who was very apologetic) who knew she was putting us in a bind, but there wasn't a whole lot I could say to her, because I knew the score when I let this kid play this way all year.
TL;DR: My senior captain who I had benched came anyway to support the team. We called her -- she was at Starbucks -- and she came back and played instead. There just wasn't a choice, the opposing coach wasn't going to move the match outside to potentially benefit us. We lost this one 1-6, 0-6, but it's better than a forfeit and it was a great chance for my captain to redeem herself and I'm happy for that.
3rd singles: Weirdly, this was the last match of the day because of how they arranged it. I put one of our steady sophomores here, but it turns out that the rivals flipped their lineup to try to beat us in doubles since their depth isn't there usually. So 3rd and 4th singles were practically walkovers. My player had trouble closing this girl out, also it rained and they had to go inside after playing the first set and a half outside, so it took a bit but she won 6-1, 6-4.
4th singles: Like I said, this was going to be a walkover as soon as I saw the kid in the introductions. My player gave her points because she felt bad, we won 6-1, 6-1.
1st doubles: This was must-see TV. My top two players are UTR 7 singles players who both want to get their ratings up to maybe play D1. It's gonna be a stretch, just because of how competitive that is, but the fact that it's even a consideration tells you how good they are already as juniors.
Their opponents are also juniors and the defending state champs in 4A doubles. They'd never lost a dual match in high school -- or at all -- since last year, there was no season. Needless to say, they've had it pretty easy so far. They knew of both of my players and when they saw them in the lineup line, their reactions were absolutely priceless.
That said, they're champs for a reason. The match started off a bit topsy-turvey as my two girls got their timing together down. They'd only done this once before -- in a junior tournament -- and certainly never in high school before, but once they started clicking...it was party time.
We won this one 6-3, 6-1 and it was pretty awesome. Everyone wished they could've watched it.
2nd doubles: This was a last minute decision by me literally as we were walking to do lineups. With my frosh at 2nd singles out, I had to replace someone in her spot. I considered another sophomore who has had a good year in singles, but she had a fatigue-issue in her last match and had to retire, so I was nervous about giving her a task that was gonna be -- at best, a three-set match -- super tough.
So we talked about it briefly and I decided to swap her into 2nd doubles (for the girl who ended up playing 3rd singles) and it was truly the decision that clinched us the match.
Paired with a senior captain who is among our best players (3rd or 4th given the day) and has deep state experience, they rolled to a 3-0 lead in the first, before giving the lead back. They figured it out, won the first set 6-3, then blanked in them in the 2nd set 6-0. They both felt great afterwards and it was truly the win I did not have coming in my roadmap.
It was good we got that one, because i always went into this match assuming we'd win 3rd and 4th doubles like we did last time. But the rivals adjusted and moved some lower singles players into those spots so that they could potentially beat us that way. It was a smart tactical move, but also, my players there just played poorly. 3rd doubles were my steady seniors who are soccer players, but they just didn't have it at all yesterday and lost 6-1, 6-2.
4th doubles was more annoying than that. My sophomore pair of volleyball players who play together often now and were undefeated just had trouble with a pair of pushers with no serve. They won the first set 6-3, but then it fell apart and they quickly lost the 2nd set. I wish I'd given them more advice to maybe calm them down, but I assumed they had it under control. The 3rd set they lost 6-3, as well...but it was just a cascade of errors on their part.
There's a point where some players just are not good at ball recognition and know what to hit, how to it and where to hit it. That was their problem yesterday. When I realized we were already up 4 matches to 3, I wasn't worried about their collapse, because players like that need to experience a bit of adversity or stuff comes easy to them. That'll make them work harder, it'll make them remember and we'll be able to drill on some stuff to avoid that next season.
But all in all, I'm pleased with the outcome. Even if we'd somehow lost the 3rd singles match, we still won enough sets to win the tiebreaker once again, so the match was totally in hand before 6pm. With that win, we clinched our league regular season title. Because Oregon tennis is setup stupid, this doesn't actually matter in any way to anyone but...in a year without a state tournament I gotta amplify milestones to get them excited.
We have two matches next week that are walkovers essentially, and then the district tournament is the following Wednesday. We're still working out our lineup for who will play where -- I do give the players some input there if it makes sense -- but it's a singles and doubles bracket, so position doesn't matter. I can get players seeded based on performance, but not more than 2 in most years (unless we seed 8 players, then you could get 3)
This year, it'll be pretty straightforward and should have relatively minimal discussion, but I have a doubles team and at least two singles players who'd be up for consideration there.
Our ideal state: Win singles title (close it out with 2 finalists) and win the doubles title. In a year with no state tournament, it'd be a small salve.
Fingers crossed we can get to the finish line.