SL tennis has a nothing to lose mindset for state finals

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:47 AM

That may seem obvious, but it’s a potent reminder that each match is vitally important at this point in the season.

Bassett sees plenty of opportunities for his young team to make some noise in its early-round matches. After that, anything can happen.

“The draw’s out, and we feel we have the potential for everybody to win their first match,” said Bassett, whose Lakers finished runner-up in both their conference and regional competitions this fall. “It’s not like we’re playing a lot of No. 1 seeds in our first match. Some of the people we’ve played before, and they were close matches.”

“Sometimes you look at the draw and you see no potential. You’re playing the 3 seed or the 2 seed right away. At least as we look at it, it’s possible for us to win some matches, and that’s all we care about. If we win all our first matches, that’s 10 points, and that probably puts you in the top 10.”

One group that’s raring to go when the finals roll around on Friday in Holland is the Lakers’ No. 2 doubles pairing of Josh Cole and Brenden Peel.

“We’re all playing really good right now,” Cole said. “We’re playing Holland Christian in the first round, who we previously defeated. It’s going to be a close match, a lot of fun.

“I feel like everyone on the team can go out and win and help us finish in the top 10, which is our goal, to be in the top 10.”

Cole said that it took a while for the Lakers’ young roster to hit its stride this fall, but at this point in the season, it’s full speed ahead, regardless of if you’re a senior or a freshman.

“We really needed our younger guys to get some experience,” Cole said. “They figured it out, and now everybody is doing really well.”

Cole and Peel were regional champions at No. 2 doubles. They hope to carry the momentum from that victory into Friday’s finals.

“That gave us a ton of confidence,” Cole said.

At No. 1 doubles, the Lakers’ young pairing of sophomore Mitch Davis and freshman Kasey Panyard has had strong results. Davis said playing in the finals a year ago as a freshmen helped prepare him for this season.

“It was really excited when we were there last year,” Davis said. “I told (Panyard) that the competition is really high. A lot of the best players play all year. It was a little overwhelming last year, plus I was sick, so I didn’t play to the best of my abilities.”

This year, Davis and Panyard get a shot at avenging an earlier loss to Forest Hills Eastern. Both teams received a first-round bye, so they play in the second round. A win here would be especially beneficial for the Lakers because they would gain two points (when two teams receive a bye, the team that wins the ensuing match receives the point for the bye).

“We played them early in the year, when it was me and Erik (Johnson),” Davis said. “It was close. That was one of our first matches of the season.”

Johnson is now playing No. 3 singles. As one of only three seniors on the team, he realizes that this is his last chance to represent Spring Lake tennis, and he hopes to make the most of it.

“I feel confident going in, even though I haven’t had the total singles experience,” he said. “My whole life I’ve played doubles before this. In singles, the stamina is hard. It’s more demanding, but it’s been fun. It’s definitely different.”

Junior Ryan Fedewa hasn’t had to make any transitions this year. He’s in his third season playing at the No. 1 singles spot for the Lakers. While he labeled his junior campaign as a mild disappointment — he finished with the same 27-9 record as he posted last year — Fedewa is ready to put it all together this weekend.

“I’m playing better people and I’ve beaten better people than I did last year,” said Fedewa, who will open up against a player from Chelsea, then could see the No. 3 seed from East Grand Rapids if he were to advance. “ It’s your last match, so you have to play hard. There’s nothing to lose.”

The Lakers’ Stuart Velarde plays Adam Ozark of Richmond in the opening round at No. 2 singles, while Craig Pratt takes on Trenton’s Parker Dukus at No. 4 singles.

The Lakers’ No. 3 doubles flight of Patrick Wang and Trevor Zenas open with a bye, then will face their rivals from Holland Christian, the sixth seed.

“We had a good record this year,” Wang said. “Now we’re a bit anxious. We feel we can do well. We have a bye in the first round, then Holland Christian, who we were really close to beating. I think we can pull it off.”

Wang is another of the Lakers’ three seniors while his partner is a freshman.

“I told him to keep in a good mood and keep pushing on,” Wang said. “It’s all about the point you’re in at that moment.”

At fourth doubles, the Lakers feature another senior-freshman pairing of Jonah Yoshonis and Griffin Wagasky. They take on a team from Otsego. With a win, they’d meet the No. 1 seed from Detroit Country Day.

“I’m excited,” Yoshonis said. “Hopefully we can win our first match. It’s sad to think this is my last state finals. I haven’t really given (Griffin) any advice specifically for this, but throughout the season, just little things. I would try to relate, to remember back to when I was a freshman, to try to help him out.”

Friday features the first three rounds of play, with the semifinals and finals taking place on Saturday.

The fact that the meet is in Holland puts a smile on Bassett’s face.

“We’re not driving halfway across the state and staying in a motel,” he said. “We’re sleeping in our own beds and we’re only going to Holland. That could help.”

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