Savanna Fuller, 12, often is at a disadvantage when she steps on the court.
Chapin's No. 1 singles player, a seventh-grader, often faces opponents who are stronger and several years older than her.
"It can be intimidating at first, but once we start playing all of that goes away," Fuller said. "I just kind of, like, disappear. It's really fun to get into that zone."
That approach has made Fuller a crucial asset to coach John Rodgers' squad. In her first year of scholastic competition, Fuller is 8-3 and has helped the Eagles to the top of Region 4-3A.
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Fuller, whose father is former Gamecocks quarterback Bobby Fuller, arrived in Chapin as a fifth-grader and began playing tournament tennis soon after.
Rodgers believes the tournament competition prepared her to be a leader for his team.
"I knew going in that she is tournament tested," Rodgers said. "She's extremely consistent and knows the game of tennis. A lot of times when you're 12 years old, that's not the case."
Fuller said she wanted to cast her lot with the high schoolers as early as the sixth grade. As soon as she was allowed, Fuller tried out for the Eagles.
She defeated four seniors in challenge matches to earn the top ladder spot.
"They're all really nice, but it was kind of scary at first going in not knowing anybody," Fuller said. She is not the only middle-schooler on the Eagles roster, but she is the youngest player in the starting lineup. Still, she had no problems finding her place in her teammates' circle.
"The older girls don't care about (her age), so she's just done a great job blending in," Rodgers said.
Especially when her youth works to her advantage. One such perk: The carefree pre-teen feels little of the pressure the top spot can sometimes bring.
"It's just been so fun because I get to play every match and they're all cheering for me," she said.
On the court, Fuller is mentally tough. She has a strong baseline game and her volleys are improving, Rodgers said. If she masters her serve, Fuller could become a dominating force in high school tennis.
"She needs to work on putting spin and power on her serve, and that will come as she gets stronger, as she gets older," Rodgers said.
Which, by the way, Fuller is not trying to rush.
"My teammates talk to me about high school. ... I don't think I'm ready for all of that," she said.