BURLINGTON — Robert Kelly, Matt Galush and Noah Constantine, standout tennis players for Cardinal Gibbons, were probably in elementary school the last time the Crusaders swept the Individual Tennis Championships.
From 2006-2008 the Crusaders swept the boys’ 2A titles, but since moving up to 3A, capturing both the doubles and singles was rendered nearly impossible with the dominance of Charlotte Catholic singles ace Kyle Johnson.
On Saturday at the Burlington Tennis center, the trio gave the Crusaders the long-awaited sweep, cruising to straight-set victories. Kelly prevented Charlotte Catholic from winning five consecutive singles titles with a 6-1, 6-2 win against the Cougars’ Riley Brosnan. Galush and Constantine, just sophomores, impressively defeated a senior tandem from Concord 6-2, 6-1.
“They played outstanding tennis, were very businesslike and had a mission coming here,” said Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle. “They were ready from the start and played some of their best tennis of the year against some great competition.”
Kelly had lost to Johnson as a freshman, but in his junior year the Crusaders’ No. 1 singles star wasn’t going to let his state-title opportunity slip away. Kelly dropped the first game to Brosnan, a sophomore, and then controlled the action the rest of the way.
“Robert has been on the top of his game all year,” Tuttle said. “He’s got every shot you need in tennis – a backhand, a forehand, an overhead. It always seems he pulls out the right shot for the right occasion.”
“For me to win it and represent my school was pretty fun,” said Kelly, who is unbeaten (22-0) this year. “One of the things I try to focus on is my speed, and I hit the ball well today.”
Charlotte Catholic coach Ken Hazen said Brosnan hit shots against Kelly that are normally winners in any other match, but not against Kelly, who was able to turn the tables and place the returns where he wanted to.
Kelly normally teams with Galush in No. 1 doubles, but Galush and Constantine have played together enough in various tournaments and some dual matches to be undefeated (13-0) as a tandem.
B.J. Beecher and Ryan Harvey, seniors from Concord, seemed like a formidable pair, with their experience and imposing physical stature. Still, Tuttle said the Crusaders’ duo did a good job returning their serve and making all the right volleys.
Gibbons (23-0), the two-time defending state duals champion, will hope to play at Burlington again next week for the duals title. “Trying to go for the three-peat is pretty special,” Galush said.