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Boys tennis earns state tourney berth

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Seniors Ben Irby, above, and Owen McAbee, top, won the deciding doubles match to clinch a state finals berth as one of the top two teams in the region. (David Conner II photos) / May 23, 2019
Halifax County High School varsity boys tennis smashed through a tough barrier yesterday in South Boston. The Comets, now 18-0, showed grit in a 5-4 win over Brooke Point in regional semifinals action.

As a result, the Comets earned the right to host the Albemarle-Massaponax winner Friday in the region finals. Both regional finalists are headed for Class 5 state play next week.

Seniors Ben Irby and Owen McAbee delivered the match-clinching doubles victory, with everybody from both sides watching. The Comet seniors won the first set, 6-2, and then dropped the second, 2-6. Both Comets sailed through five wins in the decisive third set, dropped one game, and then rallied to win 6-1.

Afterwards, the Comet tennis fraternity celebrated.

Irby said, “That means the world to me. We went out there and did what we had to do, we’re going to states.”

McAbee said, “Honestly, we lost the second set, but we came back. .. Without Ben and the grit we had, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

The final outcome came after BP and HC split two doubles’ matches. Drew Salley and Luke Redd downed Bernard Washington and Hatfield, 6-2, 7-5. But Kim and Trevor Riddle lost to Michael Foley and Nick Hoang, 2-6, 4-6.

It all came down to Irby and McAbee, trying to execute with all eyes on the Comet pair.

“You’ve got to have a clutch frame of mind, because the pressure’s on, your whole team is watching you, the coaches are watching you, the other team is watching you. You’ve got to have the right mindset to play smart tennis and that’s what me and Owen did,” said Irby.

McAbee noted, “it’s a little stressful, but we had a good start going into the third set the(Comets) pulled it out.”

Irby said the “pressure’s on for the last game. You want to do it for your team, not just for you. We’re just out there trying to get the win. That’s what we did.”

Comet coach David Riddle enjoyed an exhilarating breakthrough. Halifax has not been this far into the playoffs previously under Riddle.

Riddle said, “we talk about the fact that sometimes it’s going to come down to this. We prepared these guys for this. Me and coach (Michelle) Palmore said, hey this is what’s going to have to happen, (Halifax) worked on it in practice.”

Riddle was very happy to see the Comet seniors and co-captains Irby and McAbee react as they did in this situation.

Riddle said the path of the final 6-1 push in the critical doubles effort shows how much these players mean to the program.

“I can’t say enough for all of these guys,” said Riddle, as Irby and McAbee defeated Ben Tivin and Xanber Bolt.

Riddle said Halifax wants to be a regional one seed and earn the right to host a state quarters round in South Boston.

The Comets face the winner of AHS and Massaponax in the regional finals.

BP was also the most difficult challenge Halifax had faced. “Just speaks volumes. These (Comets) put in the work during practice, off-season, after matches, “ said Riddle.

Riddle said the Comet seniors showed composure winning the final set. He said he is “extremely proud” of his players.

The teams split in the singles’ rounds, 3-3.

No. 1 Irby dropped a 4-6, 1-6 decision to Ben Tivin. But Drew Salley won at the two spot, 6-4, 6-2 over Xander Bolt.

Minjume Kim won at the three spot, 6-4, 6-1, over Trey Williams.

No. 4 Luke Redd prevailed at the three spot over Michael Hatfield, 6-3, 6-1.

McAbee lost to no. 5 Michael Foley, 3-6, 2-6, and no. 6 Grayson Ballance lost 4-6, 2-6, to Hoang.

That sent the deciding matches to doubles. Both teams split and then Irby and McAbee delivered critical winning tennis execution at the end.

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