Decatur, AL—For the fifth year in a row, the Marion Military Institute Tigers' men's tennis team held the NJCAA Region XXII Championship plaque aloft. Unlike in past NJCAA Region XXII tournaments, the final three doubles matches decided the outcome of the 2016 incarnation of the championship.
On a breezy but sunny day at the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center in Point Mallard Park, Xavier Bell and Max Holloway, the Tigers' No. 3 doubles team, scored the championship-clinching point with their decisive 6-2, 6-2 win over Gadsden State Community College. The Tiger tandem of Adam Bahney and Andrew Wright then capped the day off with a brilliant 7-6 (12), 4-6, 10-5 victory at No. 1 doubles.
In a total team effort, the Marion Military Institute Tigers nicked the Gadsden State Community College Cardinals, 13-10.
"Going into the doubles matches, we were in the driver's seat," said MMI coach Charles Wright. "We had three doubles teams in the finals. I thought we could win at least one of those matches. I knew that the No. 1 doubles match was going to be an extremely tight contest and could go either way, that our No. 2 doubles team would have to produce an upset to win, and that our best shot at a doubles point rested with our No. 3 doubles team.
"I was correct on all counts," Wright continued. "Both teams played outstanding tennis at No. 1 doubles. Our team happened to survive, 7-6 (12), 4-6, 10-5. All four players played extremely well throughout the match. Adam and Andrew came up with the goods when they had to. At No. 2 doubles, Ben (Lee) and Blake (McDonald) were hammered in the first set, 6-1, but they fought back in the second set, falling 7-4 in the tiebreaker. It was our No. 3 doubles team of Xavier and Max that scored a relatively quick point with its 6-2, 6-2 win."
Particularly impressive, according to Wright, was the competitive spirit of the boys throughout the tournament. Exhibiting that fighting spirit to the nth degree was Marion Military Institute's No. 3 doubles team of Lee and McDonald. Lee and McDonald, after suffering a 6-4 first-set loss, came unglued in the second set and found themselves down 3-0.
"Ben and Blake were three games away from being blown out in the second set," Wright said. "Things looked bleaker than bleak. Even I saw the writing on the wall—without my glasses! It was inexplicable to me how they won that match. And even more inexplicable to me was the way in which they won that match. They reeled off six consecutive games to force the third-set super tiebreaker. And then they did the unthinkable—they zipped through the first nine points of the super tiebreaker and wound up winning 10-1! That was some turnaround. That was a comeback for the ages."
Not to be outdone in the competitive fire category was Max Holloway, a last-minute substitute for Harrison Foster at No. 2 singles for Marion Military Institute. Harrison Foster played at the No. 2 singles position for nearly all of the fall and spring tennis matches for Marion Military Institute before a back injury forced him out of the starting lineup.
Max Holloway, Marion Military Institute's No. 7 player, stepped into the fray and fought ferociously from the first point to the last. He upset Faulkner State's Keegan Lowery in a three-set thriller, 6-2, 6-7 (1), 10-7.
"What can you say about Max?" Wright said. "He's a super kid with a cantankerous streak. He's ornery. He grew up with a bunch of older brothers, and they must have hammered the heck out of him when he was little. He is one feisty kid. I've never seen him play like that. He battled out there for nearly two hours. He gave his all out there—and so did the rest of the boys. I'm proud of each and every one of them."
The Marion Military Institute Tigers will now represent the Alabama Community College Conference (Region XXII) at the NJCAA Men's National Tennis Championships, which will be held at Collin College in Plano, TX, from May 16-20.