Cardinal Gibbons pulled off a rare feat Wednesday, coming back from a 2-4 deficit to sweep all three doubles matches needed for a 5-4 win in a PAC-6 tennis match at perennial conference champion East Chapel Hill.
Finishing under the lights at Wildcat Tennis Stadium, Cardinal Gibbons seniors Jim Mantyh and Jake Cheatham clinched the win with their 8-6 victory at No. 1 doubles over East’s Kevin Huang and Thomas Wang. With all other matches finished, their Crusader teammates cheered every point won by Mantyh and Cheatham, and poured onto the court in celebration after match point.
“It was exciting, obviously,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Andrew Tuttle said. “You always tell your players that if they win at least two singles matches, they still have a chance to come back and win.”
Both East and Gibbons were undefeated in conference matches prior to Wednesday, and their win gave the Crusaders (7-0, 4-0) a leg up on the PAC-6 championship. The two teams will meet again April 18 in Raleigh.
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“We know the conference championship goes through East Chapel Hill,” Tuttle said. “We knew that if we were going to win the conference championship, that it had to start here.”
On a team led by three seniors, a freshman might have been the single most important Crusader on the court Wednesday.
East Chapel Hill led 4-1 after five singles matches were completed, with East wins by Huang (6-3, 6-2) at No. 1, Wang (6-2, 6-2) at No. 2, Grame Zimmerman (6-4, 6-2) at No. 5 and Vincent Xia gutting out two tiebreakers for a 2-6, 7-6(5), (10-6) victory at No. 6.
The Crusaders’ lone win had been a 6-1, 6-3 decision by Brady Chapman at No. 3 singles before a tiebreaker win by freshman Peter Glenn. The Gibbons ninth-grader shrugged off a second-set loss to win a two-hour match, 6-2, 4-6 (10-5), and forced the team match into doubles.
Crusaders Kyler Zadell and freshman Will Reese won 8-4 at No. 3 doubles, and then Chapman and Glenn won 8-4 at No. 2 doubles. Mantyh and Cheatham, who had lost their singles at No. 1 and 6, respectively, trailed twice in the match score at No. 1 before pulling out the decisive victory.
“A doubles sweep when you need it doesn’t happen very often, but we got off to a good start on all three doubles courts ... and we finished strong for the win,” Tuttle said.
Wednesday’s win increased Gibbons’ momentum heading into a nonconference match Friday in Asheboro, where they’ll play Marvin Ridge in a rematch of last year’s 3A state championship final.
The Crusaders stay busy with three matches in three days next week: Monday at home against PAC-6 opponent Northern Durham, Tuesday at former Big 8 3A rival Chapel Hill and Wednesday at nearby NCISAA member Cary Academy.
East Chapel Hill (4-2, 4-1 PAC) will be just about as busy: Monday at Riverside and Wednesday at Hillside for a pair of PAC-6 road matches before playing at Chapel Hill on Thursday.