Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hard Day In El Salvador

This is one of the hardest posts I will have to write.  We have returned to the hotel and we are exhausted from the day’s events.  I am sorry not to give all the detail in Technicolor for your high definition review but I am too disappointed to describe the full days events fairly. 

Our day started off with our encounter against Ecuador.  Due to miscommunication we had to default the first two matches of the day.  This was a heart breaking reality for the whole team as Ecuador was the third strongest in the pool and we started the day with a 2-1 loss to Ecuador.  Through the day there was much discussion as the root of the problem but in the end the decision stood and we lost the encounter.

Not to be deterred we had a second match in the afternoon.  This time we would be playing the #2 team in our round robin pool, Mexico.  We calculated the numbers and we were not out of the running yet, but we needed to pull out a 2-1 win over Mexico. 

(Aside:  for Team Canada to medal a third time in the boys event we needed to finish top 2 in our pool.  The loss against Ecuador, meant we had to play for a 3 way tie in the pool between Ecuador, Mexico, and ourselves.  In the event of the 3 way tie the tie is broken by the team with the most matches won, and our single win over Ecuador would put us ahead of them if we beat Mexico)

The Mexico match-up started at 4:30pm and right from the start there was a different feel to the match.  After the warm-up we took pictures with the opposing team.  All the team members greeted each other and exchange pre-match words in broken English and Spanish. 

Matthew Henderson was our lead off man in #2 position.  He was up against Enfrain Salazar whose two cousins both are top 100 world ranked players.  Matthew battled valiantly against the older Mexican.  Holding even point for point and winner for winner with Salazar, up to 8-8, but lost the first game.  In the second game Matthew lost control of the match mid-game when the crafty Mexican started playing the referee for lets and strokes fishing for calls and disrupting the pace of the match any way he could and eventually sneaking out a lead and closing up 2 games in the lead.  In the third the confidence of the more experienced player controlled the momentum of the match right to the end.  Matt had no chance to get back in this one.

You remember Hector, our Canadian friend who came to visit us earlier this week?  He came back to watch us play again.  Hector was a positive influence on the team.  His presence raised our spirits and it was good to have a hometown supporter. 

Stefan Houbtchev started our second match with Guillermo Cortez.  Cortez is an unbelievably smoother striker of the ball.  His control over the ball and Stefan was great but not complete.  Stefan was able to rally with Cortez and set up the points and rallies.  In the end it was Stefan who’s unforced errors were the deciding factor.  Hitting 3 more tins than your opponent means they play the game to 8 while you have to play to 11. 

Yes we are two down, and yes that puts us out of the top 2 positions in the round robin play, and out of medal contention.  We were not going to stop there, David still had to play and Alejandro Reyes was ready to go.  Mexico was determined to beat us not 2-1 but 3-0.  David had a different idea in mind.  If you have seen this year’s Canadian Junior National Champion play you know his determination and his powerful ball striking are scary.  After many long rallies David lead his opponent using a variety of power, speedy retrieval, gentle touch in the front and lobs to wrong foot his opponent.  David was able to hit dying length, and obtain the elusive “no let” from the referee.  After 30min David won the last match of the encounter 3-0. 

Tomorrow morning we play Brasil and we will continue in the afternoon with draw play to play to our highest possible finish of 7th place.  There still remains a minimum of 3 matches for us to play.  We still have a job to do tomorrow.

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