His coach readied for him to lose. His opponent was poised to win.. Even Ben van der Sman admitted his confidence wavered some.
The East Ridge senior, playing in the Class 2A boys' tennis singles championship match at Baseline Tennis Center, lost the first set to Sebastian Vile of Rochester Mayo. He trailed 4-3 in the second set before rallying to win.
In the third set Vile took a 5-3 lead. But van der Sman rallied to tie the set twice. In the decisive seven-point tiebreaker, he fell behind five points to one. Then he won the next six points to win 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
"I would've thought that I could battle back," van der Sman said, "but on the same note, coming back from 1-5 is quite the feat."
After the almost three-hour match Vile buried his head in his shirt and had red eyes to show for it afterward.
"I let my guard down," Vile said. "And it cost me."
Vile looked in control after winning the first set. He was prepared for every soft return shot van der Sman tried, and he caught van der Sman flat-footed with hard shots to the corners.
Van der Sman, the tournament's top seed, had not loosened up with an earlier match. His semifinal opponent, Eagan's Maxim Zagrebelny, forfeited because of a lower back injury. East Ridge coach Suzie Heideman worried that the lack of a match and the quality of opponents on Thursday left him unprepared for the final. In her head, she had begun orchestrating what to say to him if he lost.
"I would never tell him that," Heideman said. "But I was thinking it."
Van der Sman seized control for the first time late in the second set, taking a 5-4 lead with a spike to the opposite side of the court from Vile. He pointed down at the court and yelled, "Right now! Right now!"
But Vile stretched out to scoop a ball from the corner that skied over his opponent and landed just in play to give him the first point of the tiebreaker. When he took the four-point lead in the tiebreaker, he thought he was going to win the title.
Ultimately, van der Sman said, the lack of an earlier match, which hurt him early on, helped him find energy to come back. When he won, he dropped his racket and fell to his knees.
In Class 2A doubles, junior Nicholas Aney and sophomore Varun Iyer of Rochester Century won the title with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Lakeville South's brother team of Chase and Hunter Roseth.