With Millbrook down 3-1 to Green Hope in their third-round battle in the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys’ 4A tennis playoffs on Monday, a Wildcat player yelled, “We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.”
Turns out, he was right. Millbrook (16-2) won tiebreakers at No. 2 and No. 4 singles – including an incredible comeback from sophomore Josiah Schainblatt at No. 4 – and then won two doubles matches to dispatch the Falcons 5-4 and reach the East Regional final for the fourth year in a row.
“To repeat three years in a row is a lot of fun,” senior Michael Moody said. “We just hope to make it better than last year and make it to the state championship this year.”
Millbrook won the state title in 2013 before falling to Wakefield in the East final in 2014 and 2015. The Wildcats will play the winner of the Enloe-Panther Creek match for the right to play for the state title.
Matthew Moody and Mohamed Almontaser won 10-4 at No. 2 doubles, and Michael Moody and freshman Alex Crabtree clinched the match at No. 3 doubles, beating Green Hope’s Matthew Whitney and Eshaan Javalkar 10-8.
On the flip side of Millbrook’s streak is Green Hope (17-4), which lost in the third round for the fourth year in a row.
“There’s going to be so much motivation for our future guys to get us over this edge,” Falcons senior George Edwards said. “We haven’t been able to get it, and we’ve come so close. I’m confident this school will win a state title.”
Ben Wayand beat Matthew Moody 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1 singles, Edwards won 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 over Michael Moody at No. 3 singles and Whitney dispatched Rayan Jabr at No. 6 singles to give the Falcons a 3-1 lead.
But Austin Cobb won a tiebreaker 10-6 over Vivek Ramesh at No. 2 singles to start the comeback. Then, Schainblatt rallied from being down a set and trailing Rohit Ghotkat 5-0 in the second set to pull out an improbable 2-6, 7-6, 15-13 win.
“Josiah, down one set, down 5-0 in the second, and he came all the way back to win that second set and to win it in the third set,” Millbrook coach Craig Isdahl said. “That was a huge point for us. Without that, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating right now.”
A point here or there, and it would’ve been the Falcons celebrating.
Green Hope (17-4) ended another season just short of the regional final. The match was that close.
“On the bus ride over, we talked about playing with no regrets,” Falcons coach Colin Fegeley said. “They did that. They fought their butts off on every court, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Lots of tiebreakers, and three of them didn’t go our way. It was one of those nights where the ball didn’t bounce in our direction. Hats off to Millbrook: They played great and are a quality team. If we play 10 times, each team probably wins five. It was a good one.”
But they only played once, and on Monday, Green Hope came up just short.
“This was one of those matches where you just couldn’t pin it on anyone,” Edwards said. “The only guy who won all of his matches was our No. 1 (Wayand). … For a lot of us, it wasn’t necessarily our best day, some mental lapses here and there, and that’s all it takes in this sport.”