The Hilton Head Island High tennis team is used to being the hunted. That comes with the territory when a team wins five consecutive state titles.
"We have everything (working against us) with the sixth state title we're going for," coach Jennifer Weitekamper said, "and everyone else has something to gain."
This year will be no different, but that isn't stopping the Seahawks from going for an unprecented sixth straight championship. Hilton Head High will start that journey at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, when the Seahawks will host Gilbert in the first round.
"I have a strong team this year," Weitekamper said. "What I don't know they completely understand is that (today) is all or nothing. State means nothing right now if we don't win match for match.
"We have to win (today) to get to Tuesday, another Tuesday and then to go that title."
Hilton Head High (15-2) cruised to an 8-0 mark in Region 8-AAA, giving the Seahawks a seventh straight league crown. But the light hitting in region play meant the team needed a refresher course before the playoffs began, so Weitekamper scheduled Class 2-A power Bishop England and Class 4-A power Dutch Fork last week in order to get her group prepared for the rigors of the postseason.
"I think that the way I set up the schedule at the end of the year, playing harder 4-A teams at the end of our season, has helped us prepare for the harder hitting that's coming," she said.
Hilton Head High's work in singles has Weitekamper comfortable heading into today. What worries her, however, is the youth her team brings to the court in doubles.
"Doubles has always been a question for us and what we've worked on tightly," she said. "Anyone down the line can lose, but when we feel comfortable on the doubles game, it takes the stress off Nos. 1-3 usually.
"We have not yet had to play our first doubles and we're confident with our first doubles if we have to go to that. But it's always a good plan to win before that."
A win over Gilbert would send HIlton Head High to the Lower State semifinal Oct. 30, where the Seahawks would play host to the winner of the matchup between Brookland-Cayce and Berkeley.
A win in that match would propel Hilton Head High to the Lower State final, which would also be at home on Thursday, Nov. 1.
"We're a team, and that's what we strive to be," Weitekamper said. "No one is out there playing just for themslves and that's nice. ... We pulled the team tightly and now we have to complement each other."