FRANKFORT – A new third set tie-breaker for tennis in Kentucky this season did not help the Bullitt East doubles team of senior Reese Milburn and junior Hunter Norris on Thursday after they had rallied to win the second set in the finals of the Eighth Region Tournament at Franklin County High School.
Instead of playing a third set as has been the rule in the past, starting this season the competitors battle in a first to 10-point tie-breaker after splitting the first two sets.
It wasn’t that the new rule caught the pair by surprise. At the end of the second set, Milburn yelled out “10 more points” as the pair headed to the break.
It has been a strong second set for the Bullitt East pair that entered the tournament as the number two seeds behind the South Oldham pair of sophomore Aaron Amburgey and eighth-grader Cameron Mount. A year ago, Milburn and Norris had lost in the final to Amburgey and a different partner.
The two sides knew each other well as they had played during the regular season. A match that on that day played out a complete third set before South Oldham narrowly won.
On Thursday, the two teams battled to 4-4 with each side holding serve. Bullitt East then got a break of serve but could not capatilize, losing the next game. After it was 6-6, South Oldham scored the first three points of the tie-breaker and went on to win 7-3.
Despite that frustration, the Charger duo had the advantage for most of the second game. The Bullitt East pair won the first two games and never trailed in winning 6-2.
But the final tie-breaker was not their best tennis. After winning the first point, Bullitt East gave up the next five points. The Chargers rallied to within 5-4, but then lost five of the next six points for the final 10-5 outcome.
Still, Milburn and Norris will advance to this week’s Kentucky State Tennis Championships in Lexington.
“We felt like we were right there,” Milburn said of winning a regional title. “There was some frustration. We could have served it out (in the first set) and didn’t. I tried not to get down. I knew we would come back. They were getting tired.”
Norris was feeling the same emotions.
“It was frustrating,” the junior said. “We have to get over it and get ready for state. It’s tough when you lose a tough match like that.”
The first set tie-breaker was as frustrating as the final tie-breaker.
“It was heartbreaking,” Norris said. “But we got it back and won 6-2. That 10-point tie-breaker goes fast.”
The only losses that the top Bullitt East doubles team suffered were to South Oldham as they went 16-2.
Before the match, Bullitt East coach Dustin Armstrong didn’t have any final words for his team.
“They have played together long enough that they know what to do,” the veteran coach said. “There are a lot of points out here and they know what to do.”
With the points from Milburn and Norris, Bullitt East finished third in the team chase for a fourth straight season. The Chargers finished with six points which was well behind South Oldham which won the doubles and had both of the entries in the singles final.