Tom Higgins has been coaching too long to allow members of his Porter-Gaud team to think for a minute that they have a cakewalk to a second straight SCISA Class AAA boys state tennis championship.
With six state titles in his 10 years as the Cyclones’ head coach, Higgins has quite a bit of experience on his side, not to mention the nearly three decades he spent as the head men’s tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky University.
Porter-Gaud is 12-0 and the top seed in the state playoffs that start this afternoon at the Cyclones’ courts against Columbia’s Heathwood Hall.
The Cyclones finished the regular season last week by returning to Hilton Head Island to complete a rain-interrupted 9-0 romp past a dangerous, top-heavy Hilton Head Christian team that was the 2012 state runner-up.
Porter-Gaud swept two matches each from perennial power Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian, the Nos. 2 and 5 seeds in the eight-team playoffs. But the Hilton Head teams can’t be overlooked due to the presence of talented Andrew Schafer and Jared Woodson at Prep and the Drake brothers, Hampton and Charlie, at Christian.
Although the Cyclones are not likely to be seriously tested by No. 8 Heathwood Hall, Higgins knows it’s a new season when the playoffs open. There will be tougher battles ahead this week.
Nevertheless, anything less than a 15-0 final record and another state championship would be a major disappointment for a program that has won 13 of the last 18 state titles.
A win in the quarterfinals would advance the Cyclones to a Wednesday state semifinal match at Porter-Gaud against the winner of today’s Hilton Head Christian bout with No. 4 seed Hammond School.
Hilton Head Prep, the winner of three of the last five state titles, heads the lower half of the draw, and should be one of the two teams playing for the state title on Friday at a site to be announced.
In SCISA Class AA, Palmetto Christian will serve as host to St. Andrew’s in a Tuesday state semifinal. Spartanburg Day and Marlboro will battle in the other semifinal. The final is scheduled for Friday.
The High School League Class AAAA playoffs will begin Tuesday. Summerville will travel to Stratford, Cane Bay will visit Beaufort and Fort Dorchester will be at Wando in the 32-team two-week race that will end May 11 with the state final at the Cayce Fitness and Tennis Center.
Bishop England will open play in the Class AA playoffs on Thursday. The Class AAA playoffs also will begin Thursday.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.