The Hilton Head High girls tennis team is just one win away from securing its fourth consecutive Class 3-A state championship.
The Seahawks cleared a major hurdle in convincing fashion in Friday's Lower State final, cruising past previously unbeaten A.C. Flora, 6-0.
Once again, depth was the difference.
Top to bottom, there seems to be no chink in the Seahawks' armor. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Hilton Head High has yet to lose a set.
"I've liked our depth all along," Hilton Head High coach Scott Nichols said. "Our top five singles are all tournament players. They know what it takes to practice, get there on time early and do the necessary things. That's nice to have."
The first 20 minutes of the match appeared to be up for grabs, with both sides making several good points and rallies on all courts. Just a few minutes later, though, the balls marking the Hilton Head High side of the scoring tubes started pulling away.
The marquee matchup was No. 1 singles, where Hilton Head High's Lindsey Burke took on A.C. Flora's Caroline deLoach in a battle of undefeated players.
After playing it safe the first couple of points, Burke went on the offensive, attacking deLoach's game by taking balls on the rise.
"(deLoach) likes to hit those high heavies, and those are hard to retrieve," Burke said. "I had to do whatever I had to do to win."
Burke won the match 6-1, 6-1, improving her personal record to 13-0.
For deLoach, it was a frustrating end to an outstanding high school tennis career. She has been A.C. Flora's No. 1 player for the past five seasons.
"I wasn't playing my best but that was because Lindsey played really, really well," deLoach said. "There wasn't really anything I could do about it. ... I think everybody was really surprised when we came out today and saw how good every single (Hilton Head High) player was."
Her younger sister, Shannon deLoach, gave Hilton Head High's Brooke Busby a run for her money early in the No. 2 singles match, leading most of the first set. Busby came back strong for a 6-4, 6-1 victory, improving her personal record to 10-2.
"I just had to get my game going -- get a pace, get a routine," Busby said. "It just worked out."
At No. 3 singles, Hilton Head High's Sabrina Drammis rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 win over Amanda Teague. At No. 5, Hilton Head High's Sydnee Wheeler overwhelmed Makayla Chandler 6-2, 6-4.
In No. 2 doubles, the Hilton Head High team of Megan Farrell and Holli Farrell took down Anna Sprong and Marlene Robinson 6-3, 6-2.
In the final match of the day, Hilton Head High's Jasmyn Howell capped off the perfect afternoon with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Katherine Fant in No. 4 singles.
"Obviously, we got beat by champions," A.C. Flora coach Sheri Robinson said. "That's why they're three-time state champions. They showed it today and they raised the level of their games."
The Seahawks (14-2) will look to add a fourth straight state title to the collection today against Greenville. The match is set for noon at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter.
"The goal has been, as they say, 'four-peat or forever,' " Nichols said. "That's what we've wanted all along. It was good to have competition today. The gals looked real strong when they needed to. ... I will say, if we do not become champs, (Greenville) will have had to beat us. I think that's going to be real tough with our depth."
The Red Raiders (18-3) defeated Nation Ford 4-2 in Thursday's Upper State final.
"We're looking forward to it," Greenville coach Steve Demosthenes said. "We've got a young team, but we've got a lot of tournament players. I feel good about it going into the match. I do know that Hilton Head is pretty good, so we'll have our hands full."
Hilton Head High 6, A.C. Flora 0
Singles: No. 1 -- Lindsey Burke (HHH) def. Caroline deLoach 6-1, 6-1; No. 2 -- Brooke Busby (HHH) def. Shannon deLoach 6-4, 6-1; No. 3 -- Sabrina Drammis (HHH) def. Amanda Teague 6-2, 6-1; No. 4 -- Jasmyn Howell (HHH) def. Katherine Fant 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 -- Sydnee Wheeler (HHH) def. Makayla Chandler 6-2, 6-4
Doubles: Megan Farrell/Holli Farrell (HHH) def. Anna Sprong/Marlene Robinson 6-3, 6-2