HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC — Brad Malool has heard enough about the Hilton Head Island High School girls tennis team.
He and the rest of the Seahawks' boys squad have gotten to know the girls’ accolades plenty this year because of coach Jennifer Weitekamper, who stepped in to guide the boys this season after helping lead their female counterparts to state championships the last two years.
"She compares us to the girls enough as it is," he said, laughing. "So we're trying to get the factor of boys over the girls."
The boys have drawn a little bit closer to joining the girls at the state's highest level. They moved one step further Tuesday afternoon, sweeping visiting Brookland-Cayce 5-0 to advance to Thursday's Lower State final, where they await either Socastee or Myrtle Beach.
"The girls have won six titles in a row," Malool said. "We want a little competition. It gives us motivation."
While the girls are in the midst of a six-year run of state championships in Class 3-A, the boys are bidding to win a title for the first time since 1989 -- well before anyone on this year's team was born.
"My experience down here has been with the girls team, so it's hard not to compare," Weitekamper said. " ... It's healthy competition. What I'm enjoying is that we're building a tennis program."
Things have been consistent of late, that much is certain. Hilton Head High (14-3) once again breezed past its opposition in the second round, as four of the Seahawks' five victories were won in straight sets. No. 1 singles standout Matt Oliver was the only player to buck the trend, as the seventh-grader clinched the sweep with a 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 triumph in a tiebreaker over Adam Smith.
"We breezed through region," said Malool, who was one of the first players off the court after a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 4. "Coming into playoff time, we realized we haven't been to states since '89. As a team, we want to get there."
Roman Battistelli, playing after sickness held him out of the postseason opener against Gilbert, also cruised to a 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 3. Steve DeVincentis at No. 2 and Ian Schenkel at No. 5 rounded out the wins with dominating 6-0, 6-0 victories.
"We're playing our best, no doubt," Malool said. "We're more into it than we have been. We want to get to states."
Weitekamper believes her team has the makeup to get there. But to do that, it will have to advance past a pair of clubs that bring their own talents to the court. The Seahawks are hoping for Socastee, Malool said, which edged Hilton Head High in a match tiebreak in the first round a year ago.
"I've said since I came out here that my goal was to get us to state," he said. "They have the talent, they have the basics. They have amazing components to pull together.
"But they've got to get their heads in the game, and I think we're getting there."
Hilton Head High 5, Brookland-Cayce 0
Singles -- No. 1 Matt Oliver (HHH) def. Adam Smith 5-7, 6-3 (10-7); No. 2 Steven DeVincentis (HHH) def. Christopher Brant 6-0, 6-0; No. 3 Roman Battistelli (HHH) def. Jackson Macaulay 6-3, 6-0; No. 4 Brad Malool (HHH) def. Clayton Scheller 6-1, 6-1; No. 5 Ian Schenkel (HHH) def. Justin Stagner 6-0, 6-0