The site was different but the results were the same for Cardinal Gibbons. The Crusaders handled a rain-induced venue change on Saturday to net their third consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A dual-team tennis championship with a 5-0 victory over Charlotte Catholic.
Heavy rains pushed the championship match from the Burlington Tennis Center outdoor courts to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center on the campus of Duke University.
No matter. Indoors or outdoors Gibbons hardly broke a sweat pushing its record to 26-0 and claiming its seventh dual team title in the last eight years.
“The ball bounces differently and you’re playing on a different surface, but our kids have played enough indoors and outdoors that they could handle the change well,” said Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle.
The Crusaders were heavily favored, of course.
Last week Robert Kelly, who plays No. 1 for the Crusaders, won the NCHSAA 3A singles championship by defeating Catholic’s Riley Brosnan. Matt Galush and Noah Constantine, Gibbons’ No. 2 and 3, won the 3A doubles title a week ago, too.
And among Gibbons’ 26 victories this year are a 6-0 victory against 4A champion Millbrook and a 5-1 win against 4A runner-up Winston-Salem Reynolds. The Crusaders have been tested and vetted.
“We try to schedule a difficult schedule so that the kids will be challenged,” Tuttle said. “Their goal all season was the state title and an undefeated season. They have been motivated.”
This was a new team, too. The Crusaders graduated their top two singles players from a year ago, and senior Pierce Beary, (who rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to defeat Collin Wohlfert in the 6-1, 6-4 clinching match) and Galush, (a 6-1, 6-1 winner against Patrick Menkhaus) were the only returning starters from a year ago.
Beary is the only Crusader to play on the past three state champions.
Kelly finished 25-0 in singles with his 6-2, 6-2 win over Brosnan, and Galush finished 18-0.
It’s been a big eight days for Kelly. He won the singles state title, helped win the dual-team title and was named as one of 40 players on National High School Tennis All-America Foundation team.
Beary and Greg Scurtu, who was leading Nick Russo 7-6 (5), 3-1 when the match was stopped because the team title had been decided, are the only seniors.
Some of the top high school players in the state skip school tennis to concentrate on their training, but Tuttle expects junior Kelly, sophomores Galush and Constantine, and freshman Jim Mantyh, who beat Drew Connery 6-2, 6-3, to return for another run at the title next year.
“I think they really enjoyed the team aspects,” Tuttle said. “They had a lot of fun. I expect they’ll want to try for another title next year.”