For the past four seasons, the Jay M. Robinson boys' tennis team has dominated nearly every team in its path, going 57-6 in that span. But Robinson, which has claimed the last two (4A) ME-CA 7 titles, is facing a new challenge in the all Cabarrus-county South Piedmont Conference (SPC) this season.
So far Robinson, which has won 43 of its last 45 matches, has coasted through the SPC with a perfect 13-0 mark, including 12-0 in conference play.
"I knew I was coming in to coach a great team with an winning reputation," said Robinson coach Sarah Dabbs, in her first year as head coach of the boys' team after three seasons with the Bulldog girls' tennis team.
"It was intimidating at first, as a female, to be coaching guys that are so good, that have won so many championships. But now I think I'm used to it, and I think we can be even better."
For all its accomplishments in the past four seasons, Robinson has yet to win a dual playoff match, losing three straight years in the first round, and Dabbs and her team hope to add a postseason win to their resume.
"The (Robinson) boys (team) has been to regionals and states every year but haven't had a lot of success," said Dabbs, whose team moves from 4A to 3A this season. "We know the playoffs will be a huge step up in competition, but we really want to try to win (a match) and maybe make a run."
Robinson's postseason quest begins April 26, when the Bulldogs look to take their third conference title in a row but their first SPC championship.
Their main competition includes Hickory Ridge and Concord. So far, no one in the SPC has given the Bulldogs much of a challenge.
But with everything on the line in a win-or-go-home scenario, anything can happen.
Jay M. Robinson
Two of the biggest reasons for Robinson's success in the past few seasons have been seniors Forrest Cannon and Josh Mosakowski.
Cannon, the No. 1 player, has lost only three times in four seasons and has yet to lose a match this season. Mosakowski, who has never lost in his career, is also unbeaten this season.
But the Bulldogs have a deep and talented team from top to bottom, with No. 3 Michael Dalton, No. 4 Andrew Alvarado, No. 5 William Shelley and No. 6 Ben Shamanis all capable of winning most matches.
While they will focused on winning the SPC tournament title, this team is really thinking about the postseason, where they hope to accomplish bigger and better things on a regional and state stage.
The Ragin' Bulls might be the only team with a serious chance of knocking off Robinson in the SPC tournament, as Hickory Ridge gave the Bulldogs their toughest match of the season in a 6-3 loss.
Hickory Ridge also has postseason experience, finishing second last season with a 12-3 overall mark.
No. 1 and 2 players, Grayson Huffman and Taylor Huneycutt, hope to give their team a chance.
The Spiders squad has several players with valuable experience that give them a chance at making noise at the SPC tournament and beyond.
Beating Robinson at this point may be a tall order, but making strides individually in the postseason in a better possibility at this time, especially for players like No. 1 Justin Wycoff.
The Vikings have showed they can compete with the upper echelon of the SPC teams, but must win in the lower (seeds) of singles and doubles if they expect to make any noise in the conference tournament with players like Justin Morgan.
The Wonders are not without talent, so an upset or two in individual matches wouldn't shock anyone in the SPC. Chris Abba and Zong Yang probably have the best chance at doing that.
The Trojans have been competitive this season, but have struggled mightily against the top teams in the SPC. Sam Miller and Landon Kennedy will try to give them a shot at an upset or two.
Like the Trojans, the Tigers hope to get better in the SPC tournament, but what they will have to show for it is another question. No. 1 Casey Honeycutt could make some noise, but he will have to pull a major upset.
This first-year team has struggled to compete on a consistent basis, but any signs of improvement at the tournament could provide great momentum for the future of Cox Mill tennis. No. 1 Sam Xin represents the team's brighter future.