Malcolm Kates doesn't want to jinx anything.
The task is difficult enough. The Beaufort High School tennis team has been stopped in the third round of the Class 4-A playoffs each year since 2006.
But this season brings a new opponent. And Kates, the Eagles' No. 1 singles player, said the team is playing well -- even if he didn't want to say it too loud.
Beaufort High breezed by Conway, 6-0, at home Thursday in the second round of the Class 4-A playoffs. The Eagles travel to Aiken on Tuesday for the right to advance to the Lower State final.
"I didn't expect a 6-0 in the second round," Kates said.
At this stage, Beaufort High has usually bowed out to a team from the Midlands -- Lexington, more often than not. But Aiken is the draw this season. The teams met twice during the regular season, with Aiken winning 6-0 and 5-0.
But while the team score was lopsided, the matches featured split sets and numerous tiebreakers, Beaufort High coach David Riedmayer said.
"We're optimistic, but we're kind of guarded," Riedmayer said. "Anything can happen."
Conway, the No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAAA, finished 6-2 in region play. And the Eagles expected a tough match, though Riedmayer thought his group was deeper. None of the Eagles' top three singles dropped more than two games in a set. And Anthony Williams' win at No. 5 was the only match to require a tiebreaker.
Tigers coach James Richardson told his players to keep their heads up, that they had a good season, and offered advice to each as to why they didn't fare better in their matches.
"They played better today," Richardson said. "But it's not where we came and got blown out of the water. What we expected was to come out here and play tough tennis and see what we could do."
The Eagles (18-5) look to continue a run in which they clinched another region title and finished undefeated in Region 8-AAAA.
The senior Kates, who began playing varsity as a seventh grader, claimed the school's all-time wins total earlier this season. After defeating Conway's Coste Duvall 6-2, 6-1, Kates now has 116 victories.
He plans to enroll in College of Charleston's Honors College, study biology and international studies and play club tennis before heading to medical school. The sport will take a backseat. But for the next few weeks, he'll try to squeeze the most out of his high school experience, including trips to the state singles tournament as region champion and the North-South select event at the end of May.
"Second round of the playoffs, winning 6-0, it's definitely a confidence booster," Kates said. "I think everybody else understands that we really have a chance."
Beaufort High 6, Conway 0
Singles: No. 1 Malcolm Kates def. Coste Duvall 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 James Bachety def. Ethan Smith 6-0, 6-1; No. 3 Hunter Pylant def. Spencer Lawsen 6-0, 6-2; No. 4 Alex Angus def. Andrew Reeves 6-4, 6-1; No. 5 Anthony Williams def. Chanan James 6-0, 7-6 (7-3).
Doubles: No. 2 Fred Tkach/Daniel Lange def. Will Guyton/Marshall Hardee 6-0, 6-2.