Last year's seniors were determined.
The Providence Day boys' tennis team had put together several successful seasons but had yet to win a state championship.
Finally, with a 6-3 win against two-time defending champion Cary Academy, the Chargers had their N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association title.
Now, with five of last year's top six players still on the roster, Providence Day is hoping to make it two in a row.
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"It's definitely comforting," said head coach Ryan Harper about the team's returning experience. "You at least have the majority of the team that understands the principles of what we want to do."
Seniors Mac Lothrop, Henry Wilson and Ben Keitt lead the returning group, with juniors John Cambern, Chris Paulson (currently sitting out with a collarbone injury) and Mitch Brown, and sophomore Scott Buie.
Four seniors are gone from last year's team, including its No. 1 player over the last four years, John Banks.
Banks was a three-time NCISAA 3A all-state selection, and Harper said he should have been one his freshman year as well. Harper said Banks probably lost only two matches that mattered in his high school career.
"We could usually count on John for a good win at singles and doubles, so there's two wins right there," said Buie.
Banks is now a freshman at William and Mary, where he has seen some starting action.
"He always came up big when we needed him to," said Harper. "He was a big-time leader on the team."
Banks and the rest of last year's seniors were outspoken and "boisterous," said Harper. They also were focused on winning a title after coming so close the three previous years.
"They were so determined to win and not leave here without a title," said Harper.
As freshmen, that group of seniors went 15-5 but lost in the state semifinals. As sophomores, they lost to rival Charlotte Country Day in the semifinals again, finishing 19-3.
Junior year probably was the toughest for the team, which was undefeated before falling to Country Day again in the semifinals.
"It was a crushing blow," said Paulson of that loss. "Everyone was really determined."
It hurt even more that the losses came to their conference rival, who they've shared the conference title with since Harper started coaching in 2006.
"Year after year, we were right there," said Harper. "You've got to have a good run and peak at the right time."
Now that they've won the title, said Buie, the team is a little more laid back. The players know what it feels like to win and they know what it takes. He also said this year's seniors have approached leadership differently.
"They don't as much lead through words as through actions," said Buie. "All four seniors are good leaders for the team."
The team is 4-1 this year (through March 24), with the lone loss coming 6-3 against Country Day last Wednesday.
Harper said it's hard to know the character of the team this early in the season, but he likes the way his team is playing so far.
"I think they have a lot of confidence," he said. "I think they know what it takes to win."
The seniors may not be as strong playing as last year, but they've taken up the leadership role.
"They're guys that have been on the team every year. They're leaders in their own right," said Harper.
It helps that the team is really close, said Paulson. All the players are about the same skill level, he said, which makes practices extremely competitive.
As the defending champions, Buie and Paulson said they don't feel a lot of pressure to repeat this year, but that doesn't mean they want it less.
"Of course there's a drive to get back there and do it again," said Buie.
"I'm feeling pretty good about it. I think we've got a good shot to win it all this year."