For nine autumns, coach Eric Jackson’s Lexington girls’ tennis team has been among the state’s best.
For nearly as long, the Wildcats have had to contend with Irmo and Dutch Fork for region supremacy. This year is no exception.
While the Wildcats got off to a 6-0 start, the true test for Lexington comes Thursday when the Wildcats travel to face unbeaten Dutch Fork.
“There are some things we have to prove. Dutch Fork is still the team to beat,” Jackson said. “Until we can do that, they’re No. 1.”
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Amy Lance, the Wildcats’ No. 2 singles player, said she is not surprised at her team’s strong start.
“We’re all really competitive,” Lance said. “Every match, we definitely get better, it gets easier and we get more confident.”
Having beaten Irmo and topped Class 3A juggernaut A.C. Flora, Lexington’s battle with Dutch Fork might be one of the final hurdles between the Wildcats and the Class 4A title.
“I feel like we’ll end up playing them a third time in the Lower State,” Jackson said.
Though led by three sophomores at the top of the singles ladder, the Wildcats have the experience and big-match poise of a contender.
But Jackson said Lexington embraces its status as an underdog when it comes to its Dutch Fork rivals.
“I like to talk about it. I think talking about it makes it easier on the girls and takes the pressure off them,” Jackson said. “It’s no secret that Dutch Fork is a No. 1 team. Will we have to get better to beat them? Yes. But I like that. And they’re not invincible.”
No. 1 singles player Katie Thompson said the Dutch Fork match is sure to inspire the kind of intensity the coach is looking for.
“It’s definitely an important match, probably one of our biggest of the season. And winning there would boost confidence. It will be an intense match,” said Thompson, who has the task of facing Dutch Fork leader Lauren Joch.