Dutch Fork’s girls tennis team has a chance to grab national attention on Friday at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter when it takes on the vaunted Wando Warriors.
Wando, of course, has won five straight Class 4A state championships and is currently riding a 97-match winning streak that ranks as one of the longest in U.S. prep history. According to the NFSHSA record book, only five girls programs have ever won more than 100 dual matches in succession.
The Silver Foxes, 19-0, will try to end the Warriors’ winning streak and championship reign in the Lower State title match at 2 p.m.
“Obviously, it’s a huge challenge for us, but tennis is one of those games where anything can happen on any given day,” said DF coach Julie Martin.
“The one thing I want from my girls is for them to go out loose and confident and just play their game. We want to be able to say that we left all out on the court no matter what the outcome is.”
Dutch Fork has been in this position before. In fact, this season marks the fifth time the Silver Foxes have advanced to the Lower State championship round since 2000, but they are still looking to qualify for the state title bout for the first time in school history. DF was felled in the state semifinals by Wando in 2000, 2006 and 2007, and Irmo in 2001.
Wando (22-0 this season) has been the playoff bane of the Silver Foxes for most of this decade. The Warriors have eliminated Dutch Fork five times since 2000, including the last three seasons in a row.
“I don’t think the girls have to be reminded about who we are playing,” said Martin. “They know Wando is ‘that team’ and know what they have to do to win. But I don’t think there is any more pressure playing at this point in the playoffs just because we’re facing Wando. It’s always tough to take the step to the next level.”
Dutch Fork will not be at full strength, especially if the match comes down to No. 1 doubles. Junior Liz Watson, who is 7-3 at No. 2 singles, has an ankle injury that will limit her to singles duty only. If No. 1 doubles is required, Sophomore Mareli Sanchez will team up with senior Savannah Savage.
Sanchez is 12-1 at No. 1 singles and Savage is 11-1 at No. 3. The rest of the starting lineup features Layla Asghari (10-3 at No. 4 singles), sophomore Ali Savage (13-1 at No. 5 singles) and the regular doubles team of senior Taylor Bland and junior Jillian Cothran, who stand at 11-2.