TAMPA — With its back to the wall and the season riding on the result, the Hunter’s Green Machine 7.0 kept itself in the title chase with another dominant 3-0 victory Sunday against Arbor Greene.
Already regarded as one of the great lineup technicians of the modern era, Captain Cotey threw out a week’s worth of undercover research and statistical analysis when he crumpled his lineup just mere minutes before the start of warm-ups and shuffled the deck with completely new pairings, and the payoff was a trio of straight-set wins.
Cotey and Nini Torres won at line 1 by a 7-6, 6-2 score; Shaun Cooley and Janene Culumber posted a 6-3, 6-1 smashing at line 2; and Erik Hajek and Cindy Cooley rolled 6-3, 6-2 at line 3.
“I’m not the type of guy to take credit for a win, but I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t shuffled the lineup, we would have lost 3-0 and probably lost every match 6-0, 6-0,” said Cotey, taking credit for the win. “Did I throw out a week’s worth of video analysis? Sure. Did I waste my time hiding in the bushes during the Arbor Greene practices last week? I guess. Did I needlessly go through the garbage of three different Arbor Greene players looking for a clue as to what they might do? I’m proud to say yes, dammit, I did. But the situation called for drastic measures.”
Hajek made just two errors in his match with Cindy Cooley. No, seriously, just two, striking a ball into the net on a forehand and…..the other one was….shit, I don’t remember. When you only have two, who can remember? What they do remember is that Cindy “The Enforcer” Cooley smacked two shots off her opponents.
“Well, there was no blood, no one cried, so I’m not really sure I accomplished my goal,” said Cindy. “Next time, though….someone is getting hurt. Beleeb dat!”
At line 2, Shaun Cooley and Janene sent a message that they are back, after a disappointing loss at Brandon. Arguably the team’s top tandem through the early part of the season, Janene, who heads off to Italy this week where she will probably bring back some souvenirs for Cotey, played brilliantly after a few midweek tune-up lessons and Shaun had a solid performance despite an awkward beginning, when his match was delayed as Cindy called timeout, licked her thumb and then used it to wipe some chocolate from his mouth, apparently left over from his morning breakfast of waffles with Nutella spread.
Shaun, however, never wavered and drilled three aces in the final game to seal the victory.
Cotey and Torres, nicknamed Fire and Ice (mainly because Nini was on fire and Cotey was not), won their match after taking the first set tiebreaker 9-7.
But the second set was not without drama, as Nini nearly passed out from exhaustion. A line quickly formed of nearby male tennis players — 13 in all, including the groundskeeper and pool lifeguard — volunteering to give Nini mouth-to-mouth if she continued to struggle.
That was all Torres needed to push her forward, as her backhand volleys at the net continued to find the alley for points.
The Green Machine had to win to keep pace with first-place Brandon, which beat the other HG team 3-0 and remain undefeated. The wins by the two teams sets up a massive showdown next week at Hunter’s Green that the Green Machine has to win to stay alive.
Asked to comment on the upcoming blockbuster, Cotey declined.
“I have some garbage cans to start digging through, so if you’ll excuse me…” he said.
(Though truthfully, a few hours later, Cotey teamed with his wife Phuong to win 6-4, 6-0 and advance to the Ultimate Tennis 3.5 championship at Innisbrook. He will, however, be going through garbage first thing Monday morning).