Lexington High is proving that last year's run to the Class 4A Lower State volleyball final was the start of something big.
The Wildcats have won their first five matches this season, zooming to the top of the Class 4A state rankings, before losing their first match to No. 2 Dorman last week.
That did little to slow Lexington, however, as the Wildcats responded 24 hours later by handing Dutch Fork its first loss of the season.
The fast start has Lexington coach Chee Lee thinking big.
"This is the best team I've had at Lexington," Lee said, "and we have a chance to do something if we keep our focus and get the kind of leadership we know we need when the playoffs start."
Lexington won Region 5-4A last season before posting playoff wins against Fort Dorchester, James Island and Summerville. Wando ended the Wildcats' season one win short of the state championship, dispatching Lexington 22-25, 25-15, 26-24 and 25-13.
This year's team is getting strong play from seniors Kellie Schmidt and Laura Grace Swindler.
Against Dutch Fork last Thursday, Schmidt had 25 kills and had a team-high seven digs from her outside hitter position. Swindler kept the attack humming smoothly, finishing with 34 assists. The veteran duo also was stellar at the serving line, where Swindler had five aces and Schmidt three as Lexington beat Dutch Fork 25-16, 25-19, 18-25 and 25-12.
A day earlier, Lexington saw its perfect record and hold on the top spot in the Class 4A rankings end with a 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 loss at No. 2 Dorman.
That night, Schmidt led Lexington with 23 kills, while Swindler finished with 31 assists. Schmidt and Swindler both finished with eight digs for the Wildcats.
The loss didn't leave the Wildcats doubting their ability or dampen their long-term goals.
"We're hoping to play them again," Lee said, "and the only way we can do that is to play them in the championship."
Lexington is one of a host of Midlands teams having terrific seasons so far.
White Knoll was ranked No. 7 in last week's Class 4A poll while Blythewood was ranked No. 10.
In Class 3A, Lugoff-Elgin is ranked No. 2 with defending Region 6-3A champion Camden No. 5, Brookland-Cayce No. 8 and last year's Region 4-3A champion Chapin No. 10.
Gilbert, which won Region 3-2A and finished second in the state to Bishop England, is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A this season. Eau Claire is ranked No. 4 and Keenan, last season's Region 4-2A champion, No. 5.
In SCISA, Cardinal Newman (9-2) and Hammond (7-3) look like the class of their division.
The SCHSL volleyball playoffs begin Oct. 26 with the state finals set for Nov. 7.