Melanie Allen is a veteran of two Class AAAA state championship matches. That type of experience is priceless at this time of the year.
She has improved each season for the Wando girls -- from No. 5 to No. 3 to her current role as the Warriors' No. 2 player.
But the best news about this 5-5 ball of energy and power is that she is only a freshman. Coach Tyler Davis knows that if she's not already on par with the best players in the area, she almost certainly will lead the pack before she leaves Wando.
Allen is unbeaten this season at No. 2 singles, including a 6-3, 6-1 win over 2010 All-Lowcountry performer Annie Hay of Porter-Gaud. But things could get tough now that the Warriors (17-2) are gunning for their eighth straight appearance in the state final. She lost in last year's state final when Mauldin ended the Warriors' string of six consecutive state titles.
There is a good chance Mauldin will be in waiting again in the title match if Wando survives today's Lower State final at Lexington. Mauldin will play host to Dutch Fork in today's Upper State final.
"I'm disappointed we didn't win last year, but as a team we fought hard," she said about a 5-1 loss to Mauldin in the 2010 state final after having defeated Mauldin a year earlier when Allen helped out with a victory at No. 5.
But Allen is ready this time. In fact, she has doubled her training time at Family Circle Tennis Center to four hours a day. "I get out (of school) at 2 p.m., and I stay at Family Circle until 6:30. I love it," the energetic 14-year-old said.
She is ranked in the top 10 in the state in both 14-and-under and 16-and-under. "I think the reason I have improved so much is that I've doubled my practice time, and I'm playing in more bigger tournaments against better people," she said.
Allen can lull opponents to sleep with her heavy top-spin groundstrokes. But don't give her an angle. She'll hit it with those same short top-spin shots. And if you give her an opening down the line, she'll level out the top-spin and blast a sizzling winner.
She can do it all on the tennis court. "I started tennis when I was 5 years old," said Allen, who moved here from Florida two years ago for her father's job.
She was playing tournaments by age 9.
"I like the competitive part of tennis, and I like the people who play it. I've met so many people through tennis."
--Bishop England (18-5) plays defending state champion and rival Waccamaw in the Class AA Lower State final today at 4:30 p.m. at LTP Tennis in Mount Pleasant.
--Charleston Math and Science was eliminated from the Class A playoffs in a 4-1 loss at East Clarendon on Tuesday.
TODAY'S PLAYOFF MATCHUPS
Dutch Fork at Mauldin
Wando at Lexington
Waccamaw at Bishop England
St. Joseph at Christ Church
Governor's School at East Clarendon