High School Sports

Dunbar sophomore takes home title after exciting boys’ singles championship

Paul Laurence Dunbar's Matt Halpin returns en route to winning the boys' singles final during the KHSAA state tennis championship at the Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Paul Laurence Dunbar's Matt Halpin returns en route to winning the boys' singles final during the KHSAA state tennis championship at the Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, May 20, 2017.

The 2017 KHSAA State Tennis Tournament concluded Saturday afternoon and amongst the excitement of the finals was the return of the boys’ singles title to the city of Lexington.

Paul Laurence Dunbar sophomore Matt Halpin became the city’s first boy to win a singles title since 2004 (Nolan Polley, also of Dunbar) and capped off the day with one of the event’s most exciting matches.

Before the tournament started, Halpin faced an unfavorable draw as a championship run would mean going through the top two seeds in the field — No. 1 seed Alex Westbrook and No. 2 seed Drew Singerman, both St. Xavier Tigers.

In the semifinals matchup Saturday morning, Halpin overcame the first challenge by knocking off Westbrook only to have Singerman waiting for him in the finals. The matchup between Halpin and Singerman was a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals match, which saw Singerman prevail en route to the state title.

“I wanted to get revenge obviously,” Halpin said of last year’s loss to Singerman. “And I played (Singerman) again a few months after that, he beat me in the summer, too. So I wanted to beat him this time.”

With the opportunity to avenge his loss from last year fueling him, Halpin had to earn every bit of his two set wins over the St. X tiger.

After trailing 5-2 in the first set, Halpin bounced back and won four of the next five games to force a tie-break. He then took the set after rolling 7-4 in the tie-break. Throughout the rally in the first set, Halpin’s play started to dictate the match.

“I just wanted to limit the free points,” Halpin said. “Make him hit either winners or hit good passing shots so I could come to the net.”

The momentum allowed Halpin to jump to a 5-2 lead in the second set. Singerman showed great fight forcing deuce in the last two games, but Halpin was able to take the second to secure the set and the match.

The win in the singles title for Dunbar and Halpin also prevented St. Xavier from pulling off the sweep in the boys’ competition, as the Tigers won the doubles title in the session before.

Spencer Blanford and Preston Cameron brought home the sole title for St. X after the straight sets win over West Jessamine’s team of Brody Blinderback and Tanner Sparks. In both sets, the Tigers jumped out to commanding leads before being forced to sustain rally attempts from the Colts. The Tigers eventually took the match winning 6-3 and 6-2.

In the girls’ doubles final, McCracken County’s Danni Poat and Shelby Puryear got off to a hot start sweeping North Oldham’s team of Emma Beavin and Katie Beavin 6-0. The twin sisters for North Oldham, though, were able to bounce back in the second set before forcing a tie-break with a commanding 6-2 set.

The Beavins carried that momentum into the tie-break jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Poat and Puryear mounted a response as both teams started to exchange points back-and- forth, but it didn’t amount to much as North Oldham pulled ahead to win 10-5 and take the doubles title.

In the singles championship, McCracken’s Michelle McKamey faced No. 1 seed Eva Borders of St. Francis. McKamey took game one of the first set before dropping the next six games.

In the second set, Borders went on another impressive run, winning the first three games, before McKamey mustered up a response, winning two straight. But she wasn’t able to sustain that play and Borders closed out the set, winning 6-2 and captured the title for St. Francis.

The first ever Mr. and Miss Tennis awards were presented by the recently-formed Kentucky High School Tennis Coaches Association. Singerman of St. Xavier was awarded Mr. Tennis and McCracken’s McKamey took home Miss Tennis.