The Socastee boys tennis team has been on a mission all season long, attempting to correct the shortcomings that led to an unexpected playoff defeat a year ago. It's a feeling that Hilton Head Island High School soon will become all too familiar with.
The Braves had state championship aspirations in 2012 before Chapin pulled a 5-1 stunner in the Lower State championship. They had no plans of coming up short two years in a row, and clinched their spot Thursday with a 4-2 win over Hilton Head High to advance to Saturday's Class 3-A final.
"They committed themselves this year to getting to the state championship," first-year Braves coach Kirk McQuiddy said. "The whole goal here is not to get a T-shirt or sweatshirt, but to get the ring. That's what we're looking for."
Hilton Head High will have similar dreams this time next year, its own Lower State final waiting to be avenged. But for now, the Seahawks will have to watch from afar after the Braves built a quick 3-0 lead before hanging on thanks to their victory in a third-set tiebreak at No. 2 doubles.
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"They know what to expect, they know where they're at," Seahawks coach Jennifer Weitekamper said. "They know they can get there and they know they're not losing anybody that's part of that group.
"I think some of the bad karma and some of the old, old Hilton Head boys tennis stuff, we can officially probably say is gone. They've proven themselves to get to Lower State and they've got another shot next year."
Socastee made quick work of Hilton Head High early, registering wins in straight sets at Nos. 1 through 3. But the Seahawks went down swinging, as Brad Malool picked up a 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 4 over Noah Johnson before Ian Schenkel tallied a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Levi Altman at No. 5.
That set the stage for No. 2 doubles -- a position Weitekamper has tinkered with in recent weeks. A win would have sent the two teams into a winner-take-all showdown at No. 1 doubles. But Socastee walked away with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 victory to claim the Lower State crown.
It was similar to a year ago, when Socastee pulled out a 4-3 win over Hilton Head High in the first round thanks to tiebreak at No. 1.
"It's wonderful to win in a third-set tiebreak," McQuiddy said. "Both of those doubles teams played excellent, our guys and their guys. Our guys have been together now for two seasons in a row. They've never lost it there in the doubles spot, but they usually take us to the cardiac finish."
Weitekamper now has similar motivational tactics in her back pocket for next season, when the Seahawks go after their own comeback late in the postseason. For now, though, she's fine with reflecting on a year that included a Region 8-AAA championship and a bevy of players set to return for 2014.
"They were already looking down the road," Weitekamper said. "They knew they had to come down here, they knew that it was point to point and that this was a stepping stone. For them, they've got a revenge match going and it's going to be a great match.
"For us, we had nothing to lose. We've made it to Lower State, the boys have pulled together. They've played really hard."
Socastee 4, Hilton Head High 2
Singles -- No. 1 Kyle Barr (S) def. Matt Oliver 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Robert Conley (S) def. Steven DeVincentis 6-0, 6-3; No. 3 Coste Duvall (S) def. Roman Battistelli 6-2, 6-3; No. 4 Brad Malool (HHH) def. Noah Johnson 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 Ian Schenkel (HHH) def. Levi Altman 6-3, 6-3.
Doubles -- No. 2 Josh Davis/Tommy Lazaroff (S) def. Philip Tong/Matt Feldman 6-3, 5-7, 10-8.