Cardinal Gibbons senior Robert Kelly and Wakefield junior Bo Boyden are good friends as well as two of the state’s top high school boys’ tennis players.
They work out together as often as three times a week, but because they are good friends, they limit their sessions to workouts rather than matches.
Well, there was no putting off keeping score when Cardinals Gibbons, a state power ranked No. 1 in 3A among North Carolina High School Athletic Association schools, and Wakefield, a state power ranked No. 2 in 4A, met Thursday on the Wakefield’s courts in a non-conference match that served as a postseason warm-up for both.
The Wolverines (18-0) won 7-2 over Cardinal Gibbons (20-4) on a day Kelly was the Crusaders’ bright spot by accounting for both team points.
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Kelly came away with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Boyden in No. 1 singles and combined with Matt Galush in No. 1 doubles for a 9-8 win against Boyden and Phil Lature. The doubles match, played after the singles competition, was approaching 80 minutes before Kelly and Galush scored two straight points to overcome an 8-7 deficit and win the tiebreaker.
“He probably won’t talk to me for a few days,” Kelly said with a grin before quickly adding, “No, not really. He’s a great guy. We like the challenge of competition, but it’s always harder to play against friends.”
Kelly and Boyden played with intensity, but when they took seats during breaks to change sides, there were no glares. They seemed so amiable they could have been chatting about their prom dates rather than forehands and backhands.
Kelly, who has committed to North Carolina, is the reigning 3A state individual champion and Boyden one of the 4A state individual favorites after finishing as the runner-up last year to Middle Creek’s Nick Stachowiak, who is out with a back injury.
“Wakefield is a great team and we knew were the underdogs coming into the match,” Kelly said. “This helps us to get ready (for the postseason) in 3A.”
Wakefield won the other two doubles matches, but both were nearly as grueling as No. 1 and needed an hour to decide. At No. 2 Andrew Belonga and Nico Grewe won 9-7 against Noah Constantine and Jim Mantyh, and at No. 3 Michael Portera and Kyle McKeeman won 8-6 against Austin Blondell and Kyle Fitzgerald.
In singles, Wakefield’s five wins came from No. 2 Jensen Martin, 6-4, 6-7, (10-8); No. 3 Lature, 6-1, 6-2; No. 4 Blake Carter, 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 Belonga, 6-0, 6-3; and No. 6 Harrison Tucker, 6-3, 6-2.
“This has been such a weird season with the weather, so it was good to get in a strong nonconference match,” Wakefield coach Ken Stewart said. “We’ve been a solid team all year, but it’s always nice to see high-level players.”