Kate Cram knew she would have to take on a leadership role for the Hilton Head Island High School girls tennis team this year. The job was practically hers by default, as she was the lone upperclassman amongst the singles players.
"She's co-captain this year, and her personality and her experience now has helped," coach Jennifer Weitekamper said. "Her humor is great, too. Kate's a good leadership role for that."
Only one match came and went before Hilton Head High needed her sage advice, as the six-time defending state champions were thumped in their season opener, 6-0, to Hilton Head Prep. With rival Bluffton looming Thursday afternoon, Cram's humorous approach was needed to lift away any tension from her teammates before the Bobcats came calling.
"We had a team meeting about how that's what to expect in playoffs and stuff," Cram said. "It was a hard match. We kind of let them know that it was the very good end of what we're going to see."
Cram's teammates took her advice and turned it into a resounding 5-1 win over the Bobcats for their first victory of the season. The Seahawks' young singles players swept their matches. Bluffton's only win came from Lauren Biershenk and Moriel William at No. 2 doubles.
"If this wouldn't have been a win, that would have been a huge defeat to the ego and the morale that we're building," Weitekamper said. "In order to move toward that (state championship) concept of '7 is a lucky number,' this kind of forces that a little bit more."
Cram led the way with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Justine Wilson at No. 2, her first in the position after manning the No. 4 spot a year ago. Jenn Oliver added a 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 1 while Sarah Wood, Holly Kerr and Nicole Diaz added victories at Nos. 3 through 5.
Bluffton coach Bob Brown was disappointed with the outcome at those three spots in particular, as his Bobcats dealt with heat problems from the outset. The group's conditioning wasn't up to par with what he expected, given the team's recent outing at the Florence preseason tournament, which featured equally high temperatures.
"I have higher expectations," he said. "I'm a little disappointed that physically we're not standing up to the heat as well as the other team is. I thought we'd line up closer than the other team, they were just better than us at just about all positions.
" ... There's no reason for this, other than possibly some conditioning issues. They were a body better than us at all positions."
It was a frustrating finish to an opener Brown thought his Bobcats (0-1) could take.
"I thought this was a real chance at them," he said. "But it wasn't to be. I'd be curious if we played them 100 percent healthy how we would do."
Hilton Head High 5, Bluffton 1
Singles -- No. 1 Jenn Oliver (HHH) def. Taylor Soop 6-1, 6-3; No. 2 Kate Cram (HHH) def. Justine Wilson 6-3, 6-3; No. 3 Sarah Wood (HHH) def. Cooper Baxter 6-3, 6-1; No. 4 Holly Kerr (HHH) def. Anna Rathke 6-2, 6-1; No. 5 Nicole Diaz (HHH) def. Angie Castrillon 5-7, 6-0, 10-6.
Doubles -- No. 2 Lauren Biershenk/Moriel William (BLF) def. Henry Clare Cram/Maggie Flowers 6-3, 6-1.