Before I get to the good news, I must dispense with the bad news.  Friday, was league of course.  I played the only other undefeated player in the league.  We were both 3-0, and we’re both B players in the league.  Several people said our match would be a good one.  Nikki is smart player, but isn’t going to run out all the time.  So, I’d like to think we’re pretty similar, since I don’t run out and I try to make smart decisions when it comes to risk vs reward.  

I got there at 5:30, like usual, but I knew she was going to be late thanks to her courtesy earlier that day.  Still, I practiced a bit, slower than normal, so as not to wear myself out.  I even ran out once during practice.  I was feeling pretty good – but not quite as focused as usual; although I didn’t pay much attention to it.  I think it was because I was trying to postpone everything so it would all come together at the right time. (what time I eat relative to my match start, how much I try to get “in the zone” etc.)

Anyway, we get started around 7:45 and she quickly jumps out to the an early 2-0 lead.  I felt really awkward for some reason. Something wasn’t clicking, I wasn’t focused.  She missed a 7 and left me with a pretty simple out, but I miscued trying to soft-draw to hold for position instead of letting the natural force/angle work for me. *sigh* That puts her up to a 3-0 lead.  Then I finally get one, but then she gets 2 more. It was 5-1 and I feeling something between defeat and determination.  I had seen plenty of people comeback from a 5-1, so I decided that would be me this time.

Like one-pocket, when you’re down in the count, it’s not always the best option to fire at risky shots.  I found myself shooting at the 9 and thought “I hate it when other people do that, I’m not gonna be that desperate.”  From there, I started gaining focus. I took my time. I blocked out negative thoughts as best I could.  I tried to play as smart as the table layouts would allow.  

I managed to get it tied up at 5-5, thanks to some fortunate bumps and rolls and some missed opportunities on her part.  From there, we both played conservative and cautious – and I think it hurt both of us.  Neither of us ran more than 3 or 4 balls all night.  It just wasn’t working, but still, we stayed neck and neck until it was hill-hill.  That final rack wasn’t pretty, lots of safety plays, but then I missed a fairly routine slice on the 5 balls.  She took full advantage of it and closed the rack to win the set.

I’m sad to have lost my first match, but glad it was a good battle. It took 2.5 hours and very grueling.  Solid 2.5 hours, no breaks.  I look forward to our next match (in a few weeks).  So, she moves into first and I drop to 2nd. After the match ended, I reflected on some the shots I missed and I’ve gained some evidence to trust my instincts more.  On one shot in particular – on the 9 – I found myself with the CB on the rail and a cut on the 9 into the side so that the natural rolling angle was really close to a scratch in the corner. My first thought was “there’s a scratch here, jack up a little to stun out of it”.  But, I have a poor history with jacking up, and I let that history scare me out of it.  I thought if I could just slow roll it – hit it fuller with some spin to throw it in, I’d be fine.  I tried to outsmart geometry.  I should know better – I have a degree in Mathematics; that can’t be done.  I scratched in the corner.  If I had won that game, I’d have won the match (given all the other racks went as they did, I mean).

After the match I set the shot up again, and hit it several times with variations of speed and spin, all with a level cue – each and every time no matter the shot parameters, I scratched.  Then I jacked up and hit it – made the ball and didn’t scratch.  Well, if that’s not evidence to go with your gut, you’ll never learn. I need to learn to trust my instincts more – trust that my eyes are correct and trust that my stoke is straight.

I stayed the rest of the night there and talked shop with Josh (Treadway Cues), while watching/being entertained by Jacob and Quint gambling with the most ridiculous equipment.  For a small sample of this go watch this video.