Pierce Beary felt the pressure. Beary knew he was the only Cardinal Gibbons player in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A boys’ tennis championship to play a tiebreaker in his singles match.
Cardinal Gibbons’ five other singles matches against Waxhaw Marvin Ridge had already been decided. But Beary needed to beat Marvin Ridge’s Woody Watson to give the Crusaders a lead before the three doubles matches.
“I just had to reset in the tiebreaker,” Beary said. “I wanted to get the ball in more because I made a lot of unforced errors in the second set.”
In fact, Beary, a junior, led 4-1 at one point in the second set. He didn’t make those same errors in the tiebreaker. Beary defeated Watson 6-1, 5-7, 10-6. Then, in doubles, Beary and freshman Matt Galush defeated Marvin Ridge pair Brett Ward and Watson 10-3 to give the Crusades a 5-2 victory Saturday at Burlington Tennis Center.
Coach Andrew Tuttle said Beary’s singles victory was a pivotal point in the match.
“That was definitely important for us,” Tuttle said. “When you’re up 4-2 going into doubles it’s a big advantage.”
Galush watched Beary closely during the tiebreaker. When Beary won, Galush said that gave the rest of the Crusaders confidence.
“He had more control in the tiebreaker than in the second set,” Galush said of Beary. “You could tell he was more focused on what he needed to do.”
This is Crusaders’ sixth championship in the last seven years. Cardinal Gibbons (24-4) also became the fifth school in NCHSAA history to have its boys and girls team win the state title in the same school year.
This was first championship appearance for Marvin Ridge (18-3).
During the playoffs, Beary and Galush didn’t lose a doubles match. In the championship, the two won a lot of their points at the net.
“I think we were pretty confident playing doubles,” Galush said. “We give each other positive reinforcement on the court.”
After the Crusaders’ victory, Galush was named the tournament MVP.
“He’s a great player,” Tuttle said of Galush. “With him being a freshman, he’s fit in really well with everyone else and he plays doubles well with older players.”
Galush finished the season with a 20-0 record in singles play. He defeated Marvin Ridge’s Cullen Kelleher 6-0, 6-1.
“It feels good to win the MVP award, but thought I wasn’t going to win it,” he said. “It means lot because there are a lot of better players on this team.”
Senior Matt Daly, who finished second in the state individual tournament, defeated Marvin Ridge’s Joey 6-0, 6-2. Killiam Steer also beat Ward 6-2, 6-1.
Tuttle told each of his Crusaders to do their part to help the team win before the match. The Crusaders executed Tuttle’s plan.
“Whether they were playing well or were down in the match, I felt like they were confident that they could win their match,” Tuttle said. “It’s exciting for me to see them follow through on their goal of winning a championship.”