|Senior Gilbert Quidera returns the serve during his match. VVN/Travis Guy|
|Freshman Turner Walz. |
With a few games remaining on the schedule, the boy's tennis team at Mingus Union is looking towards improving performances to finish the season strong following a 6-3 loss to the Bradshaw Mountain Bears.
"We're playing good teams tough, we're still not in the win column, but a whole bunch of these players are in the [singles] win column and they're still playing like a team, which I think is great," said head coach Tim Kessel.
Bradshaw is one of the top tennis teams in the state. In the first meeting of the schools this season, the Marauders picked up a single win at court one from junior Talon Walz.
Talon has been quietly securing his spot as the best No. 1 in boy's tennis, not just in Division-III, but in Arizona. The No. 1 court continued his unbeaten streak with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
"We have individuals who will finish the season strong, like Talon, who's just a really good player and he's the best in the North," Kessel said. He's going to have his accolades, but you notice he's still sitting here to, watching the No. 6 match finish up."
Next to Talon on the No. 2 court, junior Tanner Caron was involved in a back-and forth affair with him and his opponent each having their moments. Tanner claimed the first set 6-4, but lost the second 4-6 and was forced into a tiebreaker set. The junior was evenly matched with his opponent, each of them having the upper hand at various points through the final set, but it was Tanner's foe that was able to break the back-and-forth and claim a 12-10 victory.
Lone senior Gilbert Quidera dropped his match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, but was able to battle back late in the sets to make it close. Gilbert, who was critical of his performance, knows he needs to start the match just as strong as he finishes it, and if he is able to do that, pick up some wins.
"I thought I could have done a lot better," Gilbert said. "There was just more mistakes that I did on my side. Towards the end I started coming back, started playing back, rushing the net more, coming harder and that's what was helping me and I should have done that from the beginning."
Having faced Bradshaw once this season, Gilbert knew that he had to be more aggressive and play smarter if he wanted to pull out the victory, but again, as he said, it came too late in the match.
Next to Gilbert was his doubles partner and little brother of Talon, Turner Walz. Turner was also swept in straight sets 4-6, 4-6. Turner tried to make the proper adjustments from his first encounter with Bradshaw to this one, and while he was successful, he was not able tot triumph.
"I knew that he could get the ball back to me every time, basically, and I knew that he didn't have a good backhand at all. This time I was able to hit it to his backhand almost every time and able to hit better drop shots. Learning how he plays really helped me I this match."
One area of his game Turner said needs to improve is his mental game. He went up 4-0 in his first set, but began to fall apart and lost the set. He is not sure why that happened, but hopes that with practice, repetition and not over-thinking his match, he can strengthen his mental game.
Rounding out the singles play for Mingus were freshmen Joseph Sandoval and Logan Connella. Joseph dropped his match 6-4, 6-4, but Logan was able to make the right adjustments from the first time the two school squared off and now to come out victorious.
"These guys, despite the losses, they are continuing to improve their game. They're still practicing hard; they're playing to the last point," Kessel said. "That showed in Logan's match when he was at the brink and fought back, several points, too many breaks to get back and win the tiebreaker, that's a big deal. That's mental toughness, and we'll see what kind of dividends it pays at the end of this season, but it certainly will pay dividends as this team progresses. Most of this team will back next year, and that's a factor too."
Logan was able to win his first set 7-5, but lost his next one by the same score, forcing the final match of the day into a tiebreaker. The first year tennis player battled for 22 points with his adversary, each student taking the lead and then losing it, with momentum going back and forth between the two. Finally, Logan was able to break up the repetition and forced a point. From there, he was able to score another point, earning the win for him; his second win in a row.
"We lost to these guys 1-8, in Bradshaw, they're the No. 2 team in the state," Kessel said. "They come down here and we pick up three matches, and that's a big deal, it's a big deal to win a doubles match and a couple singles matches like that. We had some other matches that went to a third set tiebreak that we didn't win, but they were close."
In doubles play, the court one duo of Talon and Turner were the only Marauders to pull out a win with their 8-5 win. The other two doubles matches were lost 8-2 and 8-3.
Gilbert and Turner were at doubles court 2. The senior and the freshman believe that for the pair to become a better team, they need to be more aggressive and communicate better, among other things.
"A big thing is communication," Turner said. "We have to really learn how to play wit each other. We've only really played two matches now together. Its just hard to do that when you get switched around."
Gilbert added, "We both had our mistakes. We needed to cut down on our mistakes and play smarter. Rush the net, both of us and play tougher."
Despite still searching for a team win, Kessel is very happy with the progression the athletes are making as tennis players and teammates. He was especially happy that the whole varsity squad waited until Logan was finished with his match, cheering and supporting him the while way.
"The thing I just told these guys, I've had tennis teams, and a lot of tennis teams, because its an individual sport and a team sport, they'll peel off because they're tired," Kessell said. Some of these guys lost today, lost in close matches, every varsity kid stayed around and watched the last match, even though the suns down and its getting cold. That impresses me about the team concept, the way these guys are thinking and it makes me proud of them. That's a cool thing."