SMITHFIELD — The third time was especially charming for the Corinth Holders boys tennis team in Tuesday afternoon’s Two Rivers 3A Conference tournament.
For the third consecutive year, the Pirates will be taking part in the state dual team tournament, this year as a member of the 3A classification.
For the third consecutive year, William Xia will represent the Pirates in regional singles play as a conference champion. On Tuesday, he defeated Cleveland’s Dylan Bentancourt, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.
And for the first time in three tries, the Pirates’ doubles team of Braxton Brewington and Christian Green will enter regional tournament competition as conference champions.
Brewington and Green rallied from a one-set deficit to defeat the Rams’ Tyler Garner and Andrew Josupait, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In all, the Pirates will send five players to the 3A Mideast Regional, which will be played May 2-3 on the stadium courts at Barton College in Wilson.
Joining Xia and the Brewington-Green duo will be the Pirates’ tandem of Jacob Altman and Jamie Schap, who claimed the consolation title over teammates Zach Blinson and Patrick Johnson, 6-3, 6-1.
The top three finishers in singles and doubles advance to the regionals. Earning the third singles berth was Cleveland’s Quinton Gonzalez, who turned back the Pirates’ Cade Greer, 6-2, 6-3.
“There were some really highly-contested matches,” said Pirates coach Chris Davis. “Especially once we got to the semifinals.
“We had a real good day. All three of our doubles teams reached the semifinals, and we had three guys make it to the second round and two in the semifinals in singles.”
Xia, coming off singles championships in the Northern Carolina 2A Conference in 2012 and 2013, earned his first Two Rivers title with the win over Bentancourt, who had given him trouble earlier this season.
“The first time we played, we split two sets and went to a tiebreaker to decide it,” Xia said. “The next time we met, I won in straight sets.”
“He played really well,” Xia said of Bentancourt. “He got the ball in, and we had a lot of rallies in the match. Overall, both of us did real well.”
Xia needed a little help in winning the third set. That help came from Greer, who lent Xia a racquet after Xia broke strings on both of his during the title match.
“I string my own racquets,” Xia said. “I need to string them a little better, I guess.”
Xia said staying focused and attacking the net, while mixing up his top-spin lobs and strong forehands, turned the match back in his favor in the final set.
Davis lauded his three-time champion but said Bentancourt would be a force to reckon with for years to come. “He is a real good player,” Davis said. “He’s young, and he’s going to get a lot better.”
For Brewington and Green, the doubles title ended two years of frustration in conference tournament play. They reached the finals in the Northern Carolina Conference in 2012 and 2013, only to come up short both times.
The frustration appeared it would continue as Garner and Josupait rolled to the opening-set win. But Brewington, a senior, and Green, a junior, got together and collected themselves.
“I guess we got a little frustrated in the beginning,” Brewington said. “But we worked it all out; we tried to get a better team picture of what was happening.”
Brewington said the key was to lay off the crazy shots, and Green agreed.
“Me and Braxton got together between sets and talked it out,” Green said. “We were like, ‘This is no longer two sets and a tiebreaker; it was a best-of-three sets.’
“The second set gave us a clean slate and we began to do what we wanted to, not what they were making us do.”
Brewington and Green jumped to a 3-0 second-set lead, then saw the margin melt to a 3-2 before regrouping for the 6-3 win to force the final set.
Again, Brewington and Green asserted themselves, building a cushion before Garner and Josupait trimmed the deficit to 4-3. But the Pirates team out-hustled their rivals for a 5-3 lead, then served out the match, dropping one point.
“I was scared,” Green said. “I knew if we lost that game, they would have won the match.”
But Brewington and Green got the break, which Green said was key.
“When you win that fifth game, when you are a game away from winning, it has an all-new mindset,” he said.