Gus Cooper is becoming the big cheese around the tennis courts for Camas.
On a windy Wednesday afternoon, Cooper struggled to keep the ball in play and lost the first set to Columbia River’s Dylan Koester. After a pep talk with head coach Jonathan Burton, Cooper strung together an incredible 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 come-from-behind victory that had major ramifications on the Papermakers beating the Chieftains by the total number of games won.
“The wind made it interesting, but I think I figured it out after the first set,” Cooper said. “On one side, it pushes the ball deep so you have to put less power on it. On the other side, it takes more power or you won’t get it over the net.
“Knowing that I’m able to come back from losing a first set is a good feeling,” he added. “I’ve always had that mentality. You take it point by point.”
A little snack between sets also helps. On Sept. 21, coach Burton could see Cooper was reeling after losing his first set to Mountain View by the score of 1-6. He reached into his bag of tricks and ripped open a bag of Cheez-Its.
“I told Gus, this is a power Cheez-It,” Burton said. “You eat this, and you will win.”
After that one zesty bite, Cooper said he started “playing incredible.” He came back and won the match 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
After Cooper lost his first set Wednesday, Burton gave him more Cheez-Its. He started winning points with lob shots, aces and smashes. Koester couldn’t even take a game away from Cooper in the third set.
“What Gus is doing is psyching himself into believing he can beat anybody who’s across the court from him,” Burton said. “The funny thing is, he did not start winning until I started feeding him Cheez-Its through the fence.”
So Cooper now has a secret weapon. It sounds cheesy, but don’t expect him to change his routine, or preferred choice of snack.
“Definitely, before my next match I’m going to buy a box of Cheez-Its,” he said.
Camas and Columbia River each won three matches and eight sets against each other, so the tiebreaker would be total numbers of games won. Cooper (4-6-6) racked up 16 games for the Papermakers, and Koester countered with only 7 (6-1-0). Jonathan Ho (6-6) added another 12 games for Camas, and his opponent only got one (1-0).
Columbia River did get 12 games from brothers Ian and Zac Jones (6-6), and JJ Jung and Sam Lin (1-0) only got one for Camas. Richard Nakagawa and Naoki Tsurta (6-7) won 13 more games for the Papermakers, while Ian David and Lane Cooper (2-5) gave River 7.
In the closest match of the day, Joey and Jeff Colston won 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 for River. Despite the tough loss Matt Brumfield and Hayden Roll still netted 15 games for Camas, which was only one shy of the Colstons.
Camas beat Columbia River 65 games to 56.
“I’m a math teacher, so I love when it comes down to a little arithmetic,” Burton said. “What I like about a win like this is we can point to any player who gave their all and say you contributed to this win.”
Burton said Hsu had a difficult time with the wind, but he hung in there and won a couple of games. Brumfield and Roll lost a 3-hour, 3-set match, but their effort was not in vain.
“Under our old system, this just would have been a loss,” Burton said. “Every game our kids scrapped for contributed to this win.”