A YEAR AGO, Thomas Bryan and his Midlands teammates just wanted to qualify for the USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships.
After reaching that goal last year, the 18-and-under team has raised its expectations.
“I want us to win nationals,” Bryan said.
He and his Midlands teammates will be playing this weekend at the USTA South Carolina Junior Team Tennis State Championships in Florence. The championships will feature about 250 players, ages 6-18, from across the state. In all, 32 co-ed teams, including 10 from the Midlands, will compete for chances to advance to the USTA Southern Junior Team Tennis Sectional Championships, which will be held Aug. 21-23 in Lexington County.
From there, teams can qualify for the USTA National Championships, which also will be held in Lexington County this fall.
“I feel very confident with this group of kids,” coach Eric Jackson said. “They’re very talented. They all get along really well together.”
During the past couple years, Bryan and his teammates have given their coach reasons to feel confident.
In 2013, the team, which features some of the best high school tennis players in the area, finished second in regional competition, just missing a bid to the national championships. Last year, the team finished fourth at the USTA JTT National Championships.
During their big matches this year, he said they plan to stick with their usual styles of play rather than succumbing to nerves and changing tactics.
“You might be thinking you need to change your game style to beat (your opponent),” Bryan said. “In fact, if you just play your style of game, you could beat him.”
All but two of the players on last year’s team will return this weekend. That returning group includes Sam Calais, who helped the Dutch Fork High girls team win the 4A state championship last fall.
Braden works for the South Carolina office of the U.S. Tennis Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (803) 781-2574.
The Midlands team that will play at the USTA Junior Team Tennis State Championships this weekend in Florence (with high school):
Abby Cooper, Irmo
Amy Lance, Lexington
Jeffrey Dayton, Saint James (Myrtle Beach)
Jerry Price, Airport
Katie Thompson, Lexington
Lauren Joch, Dutch Fork
Mark Carnes, S.C. Connections Academy
Samantha Calais, Dutch Fork
Sean Nguyen, Irmo
Thomas Bryan, Lexington