CLOVER -- Determined to prepare the Clover High School boys tennis team for the "next level," head coach Phil Wingard decided to upgrade the 2009 schedule.
The Blue Eagles' early March schedule included participation in the highly-regarded Florence Tennis Tournament.
"We played four top 10 teams, including defending state champion West Florence," Wingard said of the demanding nonregion slate.
The CHS boys played competitive tennis in a 4-2 loss to West Florence.
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"We hope the teams we played in the early season will make us stronger in the region and help reach our goal of advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs," Wingard said.
The Blue Eagles have been an elite team in Region 3-AAAA since moving up to 4A classification.
No. 1 singles player Chase Altieri looks for the team to continue its success in the region.
"We want to do well in the region and go deep into the playoffs," Altieri said.
A junior with only two and a half years of organized tennis on his resume, Altieri feels good about his game at this stage of the season.
"I am playing with more confidence this year after an active off-season," declared Altieri. "I like my serve a lot and have been getting to the net more."
Though pleased with his game, Altieri is working to improve his ground strokes.
His improved play hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Chase is doing a great job playing No. 1 singles," Wingard said following last week's 7-0 win over rival York. "He has a spin serve and can serve with power.
"He is getting to the net and shows leadership and character in his game."
Nick Deahl, who plays No. 2 singles, feels good about the season. Like Altieri, he, too, is playing better at the net and improving his ground strokes.
"I think we will continue our success in the region and make a run in the playoffs," he said.
No. 3 singles player Will Decker said competitive practices during the week make the Blue Eagles a stronger team.
"I am playing well at the present time and have confidence in my serve," he added.
Senior Ken Long, who plays No. 4 singles, said the key to success is to play hard and play with emotion.
"I have improved my serve, overhand and underhand," he said. "If we play up to our potential, we will do well in the region."
Said Wingard of the team's mindset: "We have great guys on this team. I enjoy seeing their growth and development.
"They do everything I ask of them and are serious about reaching their goals. They know they can't let up."
The Blue Eagles host Nation Ford Thursday at 5 p.m.