Winning two crucial tiebreakers in singles Thursday at East Chapel Hill, Cardinal Gibbons turned what was a dead-even match into a 6-3 team victory that took two weeks to complete.
In their first year as a member of the 4A classification, the Crusaders became the first conference team to defeat defending PAC-6 champion East Chapel Hill in five years.
“Coming into the conference, we knew that East Chapel Hill was the favorite year in and year out. ” Cardinal Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle said. “We’d been champions of our conferences before. We were expecting a competitive battle.”
The two rivals originally met Sept. 10 at Wildcat Tennis Stadium, but the match was suspended because of rain and lightning just as most singles matches were coming to the end of their first set. Each team had three players ahead in their singles matches when play stopped.
Gibbons ended up winning four of the six singles Thursday, getting victories from junior Lizzie Galush on court No. 1, sophomore Jenna Knors at No. 2, junior Caroline Igo at 3, and ninth-grader Karly Fitzgerald at No. 6.
Galush and Knors led the entire way at No. 1 doubles and clinched the team victory with an 8-3 win over East’s Iskra Joksimovic and Victoria Jones.
Cardinal Gibbons got an insurance point from Karly and Kristen Fitzgerald’s 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles, while East Chapel Hill’s Savannah and Cassidy Bright won No. 2 doubles.
East Chapel Hill got singles wins at No. 4 from Jocelyn Reckford and at No. 5 from Madison Lewis.
Savannah Bright trailed Galush 4-6 as play resumed on court No. 1 Thursday but rallied to win the second set 6-3 to force a tiebreaker. Bright led the tiebreaker 5-3 before Galush won 10-7.
“In the tiebreaker, I was just trying to keep the ball in and not to hit too hard, because every point counts for so much,” Galush said after improving to 10-2 at No. 1 singles.
Igo was caught in the reverse situation at No. 3, where she was down one set after losing 1-6 to Jones when play suspended on Sept. 10. She came back to win the second set 6-4 and won her tiebreaker 10-6.
“It was really stressful,” Igo said. “It didn’t matter that I was up 1-0 in the second set when we restarted. I just had to regroup and play like we were beginning all over.”
Winning its 10th straight since a 5-4 loss Aug. 29 at 2014 western N.C. champion Myers Park, Cardinal Gibbons improved to 15-1 overall and 7-0 in PAC-6. East Chapel Hill, which lost 8-1 Tuesday at Green Hope, dropped to 9-3, 8-1.