The Fort Mill High School boys tennis team is continuing its winning tradition this season, cruising through its region competition and focusing on the state playoffs as the May 5 opening round approaches.
After dropping their season-opening match to North Carolina powerhouse Charlotte Latin in early March, the Yellow Jackets have not tasted defeat and have beaten every team in the region.
It's what the team has come to expect, having won the region the past two seasons.
"They have been playing pretty consistently. The region is not pushing us as much as we anticipated," Head Coach Willie Ware said. "Our goal from the beginning of the season was to win the region and advance as far as possible in the playoffs."
While the first half of the goal is becoming more and more likely, the Jackets are beginning to set their sights on obstacles in the way of the latter half - teams such as Spartanburg, which bounced Fort Mill out of the playoffs in the third round last season, Lexington, last season's Upper State champion, and West Florence, the defending overall S.C. champion.
"Some of these teams have talented players, players that have state rankings," Ware said. "But if we're ready mentally, if we bring our 'A' game, that could be the extra push we need."
The Jackets have some talented players of their own - a strong nucleus that provides constant leadership for the rest of the team, Ware said. Seniors Robbie Davis and Kyle Orsburn, the teams top two players, have been relied on to consistently score points, and juniors Tyler Davis and Daniel Proctor have also stepped up to lead the Jackets through the season.
The team is grooming one up-and-coming player for the fifth spot, Ware said. Andres Leon, a seventh grader at Springfield Middle School, is in his first year with the team and could step up to fill the spot as well as anyone.
"I have a real confidence in our top group. They are ready to play with the best of them," Ware said.
After two solid wins last week, 7-0 against Northwestern and 6-0 against York, the players on the team feel like they are heading into spring break on a good note and will be ready to finish the job at the end of the month.
"We've definitely gotten better as the season has gone on. With only one loss so far this year, we're feeling good," freshman Grant Jordan said. "The [state] tournament is coming up and we all hope to be number one in that."
Ware said he is hoping the break doesn't affect his team's performance or focus, because when they return, they will have to jump right back into competition.
The Jackets play Rock Hill Monday in their final home meet, then travel to Northwestern Tuesday. They will close out the season at the end of the week at Nation Ford and at Clover.
"This team has good chemistry, which is important," Ware said. "Skill has gotten them this far, but chemistry is what pushes them to the next level."