Losing in the Class 3A final in 2012 proved a double-edged sword for the A.C. Flora Falcons tennis squad.
No doubt, their 5-1 loss to Hilton Head was hurtful. But, coach Amy Martin said, it also served as strong motivation for what has turned out to be a phenomenal season.
“Having a taste of it and knowing what it was like to be there, they want it again,” said Martin, whose Falcons wrapped up the regular season on Tuesday at Westwood. “It adds confidence, but at the same time it adds strength and makes you want to work harder.”
The Falcons’ efforts this season have resulted in a 20-3 record, including an 12-0 region mark.
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Flora got a strong start to its season because of a team unity produced by the Falcons’ common goal.
“With seventh-graders to seniors, this team came together before the season, as opposed to last year, where we found ourselves in the middle of the season,” Martin said. “This year, we played a preseason tournament that really did bring the team together from the get-go.”
On the No. 1 singles court, eighth-grader Shelby Martin has played with tremendous poise, posting an 8-3, 7-0 record.
“As an eighth-grader, sometimes, I don’t think they understand the pressure, but Shelby doesn’t let it get to her,” Martin said. “When Shelby plays in Shelby’s zone, look out. There’s very little that I have to say to her; she knows what she needs to do.”
And, Martin said, leadership from the team’s seniors, including Emily Sandlin (9-3, 9-0), and Sally DuBose, has helped keep the Falcons on course.
Meanwhile, Regan Tapp and Esme Bajo have stepped up their game since winning their No. 2 doubles match at last year’s final.
A close midseason loss to Irmo motivated the Falcons. And Martin said their 2-1 performance at a weekend tournament in Hilton Head supplied the Falcons with a boost. Flora lost in the final of that tournament to Class 2A power Christ Church.
While they will be one of the top teams out of the Upper State, Flora players know what they are aiming for. But the Falcons remain tight-lipped about the 3A title shot .
“We’re taking it day-by-day,” Martin said.