By Scott Vanscoy
Republic overcame a 2-1 deficit to win their second straight Class 2, District 12 Boys Tennis title on Tuesday night. The match featured a 10-minute rain delay and then a 30-minute delay for lightning, causing players and spectators to seek shelter. This delay gave Republic the opportunity to gather themselves and win four of the five singles matches, guaranteeing them the District title.
Republic was led by their lone senior, Case Birlew, who overcame a 4-1 deficit to win his second set, 7-5.
“My match came down to a second set,” said Birlew. “I was down 4-1 in it and after the storm break I got my mind together. When we had played doubles we went to 9-7 and it was tough win for us there. Being tired on the court I had to dig deep because I didn’t want to go to a third set.”
Birlew has only been playing competitive tennis for two years but in that time he has shown himself to be a leader, both on and off the court.
“Last week Case won the conference championship at singles,” said Republic coach Dan Vales. “Being a player in only his second year of competitive tennis, he’s pretty amazing, what he’s done on the court for us. He’s exceeded my wildest expectations and I’m very proud of him. He’s a great leader, always building up the other guys on the court, and one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever had on the court. That shows every day he’s out here; very proud of him.”
Coach Vales was not impressed with his team’s sluggish start to the match, as they dropped two out of three doubles matches.
“We kind of had a rough start,” said Vales. “We lost 2-1 in doubles, so we knew that we had to come back and play our best singles. We had some confidence because the last time we played Nixa it came down to the last match. Again tonight it came down to the last match, with our No. 5 guy (Austin Massey) coming through for us. The guys stepped up and played some outstanding tennis to really close it today.”
Nixa, though, put up a good fight as they had the edge after the doubles competition. However, any momentum they had was lost during the weather delay.
“It started off pretty well, we were playing well in doubles,” said Nixa coach Slade Snowden. “Really, all year long our doubles has been our weaker part of our game but the last couple weeks we’ve been hitting doubles pretty hard. Going into singles I had high hopes, our guys were playing well, but obviously the delays and things affected us. The delays, mentally and physically, when you’ve got momentum in your direction the delays hurt. There’s no excuse for that. Our No. 1 was up but losing the momentum, losing the steam, it’s hard to get that back.”
Birlew took advantage of the swing in momentum and came back to defeat Briggs Boyd, 7-5, in the second set. The rest of the Tigers stayed on the attack, winning four of the five singles matches, with the sixth one being halted after Republic had obtained the five wins necessary to secure the District title.
“It feels great to win this again,” said Birlew. “This is my second year playing and my second district title. I knew I had big shoes to fill after last year. It is great to see the younger kids stepping up. Once my match is over and we have two more going on, we have to cheer them on. They are just as responsible for bringing home this championship.”
With his team’s unexpected District title this year, Vales has quieted many naysayers. Wins from his lower ranked players were a surprise to everyone but the coach.
“We got a win at 5, he beat a guy he’s never beaten before, he really stepped it up to win,” said Vales. “I’m just so proud of my team; going into this season no one even really expected us to be in the running. It was a big statement for these guys; they stepped up to Varsity and showed that they could compete with these other schools. Last year we won Districts and COC but it was more expected. This year we kind of came out of nowhere on some teams. I’m so proud, it was really a huge win. This one is really sweet, I’m going to savor this one for a while.”
1) Republic Birlew & Creek defeated Nixa Briggs & Case 9-7
2) Nixa Powley & Alcantara defeated Republic Mackey & Carpenter 8-3
3) Nixa Jones & Boyd defeated Republic Massey & Elder 8-2
1) Birlew (R) defeats Boyd (N) 6-4 7-5
2) Powley (N) defeats Mackey (R) 1-6, 6-7 (1-7)
3) Creek (R) defeats Case (N) 6-3, 6-2
4) Carpenter (R) defeats Jones (N) 6-0, 5-7 6-4
5) Massey (R) defeats Boyd (N) 6-3, 6-4
6) Elder (R) match stopped against Alcantara (N)