Athlete of the Year: Tennis star raises Barr for Braves

Kyle Barr was a little late getting into the tennis game, but he’s proven to be a fast closer.

The rising sophomore at Socastee High led the Braves on a surprising run to the Class AAA Lower State Finals as a freshman, just four years after picking up the racket for the first time.

“I didn’t start playing until I was 11 but I fell in love with it,” said Barr, who earned the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Year award for boys tennis. “I like working hard and grinding it out.”

That’s exactly what Barr did last season, knocking off some of the top upperclassmen in the state and all of them in the region for an undefeated season at No. 1 singles until the Lower State finals.

Barr also dominated in doubles, losing only one match at No. 1 all season. He and younger brother Connor were undefeated as partners throughout the entire season.

“I prefer singles because it’s all on you. If you’re having a bad day, you don’t have any teammates to bail you out,” Barr said. “But doubles is fun too, especially since No. 1 usually decides a match. I’m real competitive and I like being in those situations.”

In fact, when asked about his favorite match or memory of the season, Barr selected not one of his own but rather a No. 2 doubles victory by teammates CJ Knipper and Andy Buffalino. They rallied for a 1-6, 6-2, 10-7 tiebreaker over Hilton Head that set the stage for Barr and Ryan Conley to decide the playoff win.

Barr also is burning it up on the singles courts in juniors. As one of the top 25 Under-16s in the Southeast, he is competing in the National Clay Court Championships in Florida this summer. Despite being on the younger end of the two-year age divisions, he has won many junior events in the region.

Barr hopes to play college and perhaps professional tennis in the future, but that’s a long way off. For now he is looking forward to leading the Braves for three more years in hopes of taking the next step to a state title.

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