What a Match | Teen Ink

What a Match

November 29, 2018
By delacruza BRONZE, Amery, Wisconsin
delacruza BRONZE, Amery, Wisconsin
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

5:45 AM: I awoke to the infuriating noise of my cheap alarm. It was a chilly fall morning. Peeking through the window, I could hear the fragile leaves in the darkness, still falling. The breeze was crisp and cool through the screen of the portal. This was it: game day.

I wandered down the hall and into the kitchen to grab a mug filled with steamy coffee and started digging through the fridge for “healthy snacks” as coach calls them. I grabbed my Coleman cooler and filled it to the brim with as many munchies as I could. Eventually, the cooler was full, and it was time to fill water jugs. One… two… and... three, I said in my head as I filled each bottle. Number one rule of tennis: never forget your water!

 I stumbled back into my room, still exhausted by the early hour, and began to put on my skirt and tank top.

Shoot, I remembered, coach said to dress in layers for today. I pulled out my phone and checked my weather application. Sure enough, there was a high of only 42 degrees that day. I grabbed my leggings and sweatshirt to pile on top of my usual uniform and started folding my blanket and headphones for the frigid bus ride. I checked the time once more: 6:15.

 Oh no! I though as I rushed to get everything else ready to go. I rushed into my mom’s room, flustered, and in a sharp whisper said, “Mom… I have to go!”

“What? Why?” she mumbled, sleepy and confused.

“Tennis!” I said, almost forgetting to whisper. “The final match is today, and I have to meet the team at the school in 15 minutes.”

“…Oh! I totally forgot!” she said with realization as she quickly got out of bed and rushed to slip on the first pair of shoes she could find.

I snatched a heavy jacket along with a pair of gloves and a headband on my way out. My mom and I both zipped out the door, arms full of gear. We jumped into the car and zoomed to the school to meet up with the team. On the way there, there was only one thing I could think about: the match. In the back of my mind, I knew that this would be the day when my doubles partner and I had to show our coaches that we could handle that number one doubles spot on the team. I knew we could do it, I just hoped that my partner had felt the same way.

As we turned the final corner before the school, I started to gather all my gear so that I could get out of the car right away and toss my bags into the team van.

“Alright, mom,” I started to say, “Play starts at nine o’clock. I’ll see you and dad around then.”

“Sounds good. See you later!” she nodded and drove away with a tired smile.

I flew out of the car and saw my team. I was immediately excited for what this day would bring. Our whole team had been trained for this.

            “Hey guys!” I exclaimed to show my excitement.

            “Hey,” a few of them said in a monotone voice, without expressing the same excitement.

            “Tired?” I asked them with a soft smirk.

            “Um…yeah!” one of them said with a great force, “I should be sleeping right now!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. This was my team. We all stuffed the back of the van with our luggage and met up with the coaches for a quick team meeting just before we took off. Everyone, like always, had their headphones on and eyes closed.         

The sun was finally starting to come up into the window of the van. I could feel a soft grin appear on my face as I slowly opened my eyes.

            “We’re here ladies!” said coach in a peppy voice.

We slowly started stretching and putting our shoes on so that we’d be ready to warm up right away. One by one, we filed out of the van and yanked our equipment out of the back. I met up with Hannah, my doubles partner, and approached the courts walking next to her.

            “Hey, buddy. You pumped up yet?” I asked her to get her excited. She had looked a little tired.

            “You bet I am. Let’s get this win!” she hollered with an eager smile. At that moment, I knew today would go well.

We walked confidently to our spot along the courts and finished putting on our hats and gloves. All of us were already cold. We’d only been at the courts for about five minutes, and we still had the whole day ahead of us.

 Shivering, Hannah and I grabbed a couple of balls each and galloped onto the courts to try to warm up. We each served a couple times to start with.

            “My hands are already freezing off…” I told Hannah with grief.

            “I know, so are mine. This is going to be a long day. Let’s just keep going and try not to think about the cold.” We nodded in agreement and continued to defrost our muscles. Surrounding us was our team, also warming up and adjusting to the temperature.

            “Number one dubs? You’re up!” yelled coach in the distance. Well, that was fast.

Hannah and I jogged over to meet our opponents. We were both excited.

Our opponents were in sight. This was it. The match that determined our rank. We introduced ourselves to each other and went to our designated court. Oddly enough, the warm up against our opponents seemed to be easy for Hannah and me, but that was nothing compared to what was coming. After the first serve, we had rallies that were ten hits each. We managed to keep a steady lead throughout the first set with 15 love, 30 love, 30-15, 40-15, and then winning the first match out of six. We took our two-minute break after the first set, winning six to zero. The first set had been a breeze.

            “Not too shabby, huh? Let’s keep it up now, aye?” I said with a confident tone.

            “No problem,” said Hannah. She reached out her hand to offer a high-five, and with that, we switched sides to move on to the second set. This time it was the other team’s turn to serve. I was receiving.

            “You got it, Al,” said Hannah looking back at me. The serve came zinging at me like a lightning bolt. I watched it closely and made soft contact to reflect it back cross-court just to be safe. The server returned it back to me with a deep lob directed at the back line. I sprinted back as fast as I could and lobbed the ball back to the empty, opposite corner. The opponent took a stride out for the shot, and to my surprise, made great contact right towards Hannah, who was at the net. The shot caught Hannah by surprise, and she reacted too quickly, forcing the ball into the net.

            “No worries, Hannah,” I said to make sure she was still on her A-game. She looked at me and smiled slightly, as if she was mad or starting to get upset.

The next serve came over the net, this time, to Hannah. She was ready. With force, she whipped the ball cross-court and split-stepped to get ready for the next shot. The ball came back, now to me, high in the air. I wound up for an overhead shot. When the ball was perfectly in my sights, I took a soft but effective swing. Woosh! The ball dipped in a downward motion more than I had intended. The girl on the ad side of the court raised her finger to make a call.

“Out!” the girl cried. My heart dropped. I had just missed an overhead. Not good.

“That’s alright, Ally,” Hannah said, this time it was her cheering me up, “you’ll get the next one.” At this point, anyone could tell that we were both stressing. This was not how we usually played—not a all.

The next few points didn’t go the way we wanted, nor did the rest of the games in the second set. The thought of defeat had gotten into both of our heads. Coach called us over after the second set.

“Alright, the score is 1-1 and you’ve got one set left to prove you can do this. You guys need to keep up the same energy you had in the first set. That is how you’re going to be successful. You cannot do this thing where you let the little mistakes get into your head and cause everything to get messed up. Now, Ally, your serves have been pretty good, but make sure on your net shots that you’re approaching nice and easy. Power down just a tad. And Hannah, on your serve, just make sure you get that first one in, but if you don’t, just power level down and get that second one in right in the middle,” said Coach. She had the greatest pep talks.

“Okay, can you do this?” she asked. We both grinned at each other with a nod. “Go get ‘em,” she said, and we jogged back to the bench for a quick drink of Gatorade before taking our spots on the court to finish this match. This was it--the match we had been waiting for. Hannah and I made eye contact and gave each other a high-five. It was Hannah’s serve. She bounced the ball twice and announced the score.

“One-one, love all.”

The ball was sent over the net at a fast pace. A rally took shape. The ball volleyed from side to side, player to player. There was no blinking. There must have been at least 15 hits on each side. Then, finally, a shot came for me, perfectly placed for a killer overhead. Smash! That ball was gone. Our point. Right at the opposing girl. That was my shot, right there.

“Yes!” I muttered in private celebration to be modest and polite. I gave Hannah a high-five. We were back on track. We just had to keep it up. Point after point after point, we kept winning the rallies.

After many, many tough rallies, the score was 5-0 in the third set with a game score of 40 to love. We only needed one more point. I took a deep breath and smiled over at my parents who looked as if they were on the edge of their lawn chairs outside the fence of the courts.

 No pressure, Ally. You got it. I thought. There was no doubt that, physically, we could do this. It was all mental.

I tossed up the ball and watched it so closely I could read the word “Wilson” printed on the side. I took a swing and the ball was in play. The squeaking from our shoes against the court could’ve been heard from miles away. The play was intense, until suddenly, the ball was slammed to Hannah, and all she had time to do was block. The ball reflected off her racket with great resistance and bounced about an inch over the net, landing on the line. Our point. Our parents started cheering and I ran to Hannah to celebrate.

“We did it, buddy!” I yelled as I gave her a double high-five.

“We got the dub!” She smiled, and we ran over to shake our opponents’ hands. What a match.

We continued to ramble on about how well we played as we walked over to coach to have a final discussion. The grin on coach’s face was priceless.

“You guys!” she started, “You did it!” She gave us high-fives. I glanced over to see the grinning faces of my parents. This was the moment when I knew it was all worth it. What a match.

The author's comments:

This piece was created after winning the championship match during tennis season. It was a very memorable experience for my and my doubles partner.

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