RALEIGH — Getting to the state championship finals may be old hat for Cardinal Gibbons, but the Crusaders still have a lot to play for Saturday after their 6-0 East Regional 3A championship win over Carolina Conference rival Chapel Hill on Wednesday afternoon. This is the fourth year in a row the Crusaders have defeated the Tigers in the playoffs.
Gibbons (25-0) will face either Charlotte Catholic or Weddington at the Burlington Tennis Center on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. It is the eighth straight finals appearance and the Crusaders have taken home the championship trophy six times of the previous seven trips. They won the 3A state championship the last two years.
A win would not only give the school another title, but it would also cap an undefeated season for the first time in coach Andrew Tuttles five years as head coach.
It would also give the Crusaders a sweep of the singles, doubles, and team championship in 3A tennis. Last Saturday, Gibbons junior Robert Kelly won the individual championship and two Crusaders sophomores, Matt Galush and Noah Constantine, took the doubles state championship.
Now were looking for the Triple Crown, a sweep of all the championships. That would be pretty exciting, said Kelly, who is now 24-0 in singles matches this year after his 6-2, 6-4 win over the Tigers Bryan Zhang. Its an exciting thing to represent our school that way and wear the Gibbons jersey.
Kelly, who lives in Chapel Hill, was pressed more than usual in his match, falling behind 4-0 in the second set before rallying against the sophomore Zhang.
They are, as far as Im concerned, the best team regardless of classification in the state, Chapel Hill coach Neil Alderman said. Theyre strong all the way, one through six. I think theyll be heavy favorites to win the championship, but thats why they play the game, you know, you never know.
Kelly is very good and that was a great effort against him by Bryan, Alderman said. Were going to work hard and be better next year.
Freshman Jim Mantyh wrapped up his win for Gibbons, 6-0, 6-3, over Chapel Hill junior Alex Walker first at number five. Galush followed quickly with his victory, 6-0, 6-3, over Tiger freshman Jared Weber at number two.
Those two 6-0 first set wins got us going early, that was a good way to start, kind of set the tone, Tuttle said. But still this was a very good match for us going into the state finals, playing against good competition. Our guys like playing against good players, it helps them get good rallies in. I think well be ready for the next round.
At number three, Constantine topped Chapel Hill senior Garcian DCruz, 6-4, 6-4. At number four, Gibbons senior Pierce Beary won 6-1, 6-2 over Lucas Prata, and at number six, Crusaders freshman Shafer Beary came from behind to defeat Ashwin Bhargava 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.
Senior Greg Scurtu, who normally plays number five for Gibbons, sat out Wednesdays win, but should be back in the lineup Saturday, according to Tuttle.