By TREVOR ZION BAUKNIGHT
Item Sports Writer
After a solid regular season, the Sumter High School varsity boys tennis team begins play today in the 4A state playoffs. Sumter earned the No.2 seed in the lower state with a 13-4 overall record and a 6-2 record in Region VI.
In the first round, the Gamecocks will host Stratford, the No.3 team from the traditionally-strong Charleston-area Region VII, at 4:30 p.m. at the Sumter High tennis courts.
Sumter’s only region losses came against No.1 seed West Florence, the defending 4A state champion. Sumter coach Wayne Brown said he was pleased with the way his team came together this season.
“We’re very pleased with the record,” Brown said. “I think we surprised ourselves. I know we had three matches that went down to No.1 doubles, and one of those even went down to a tiebreaker in the third set.
“Against Hartsville, we were down 9-6 in the tiebreaker and came back to win 11-9 and clinch the No.2 spot in the region,” Brown added. “If we hadn’t done that, we’d have probably tied for No.2 and, who knows, we might have ended up on the road (today).”
Brown said that the chance to play on the Gamecocks’ home courts is a big advantage, particularly playing a team from the Charleston region.
“It’s a pretty long ride, and it’s tiring, especially on a week day,” he said. “It’s a lot more comfortable to be at home, you have the opportunity to get warmed up and relax a little bit before you play.”
Brown said he knows little about Stratford, but that it will be nice for his players to have the opportunity to play against new competition.
“I know nothing about (Stratford) other than that they finished third in that Charleston region that usually has some really strong teams,” Brown said. “Year in and year out, it’s a tough conference, because there are some schools down there that are just as big as Sumter High or bigger.
“We’re just looking forward to playing some people we haven’t played before,” he added. “We’ve got nothing to lose, and we’re just going to go out there and try our best.”