Players come and go in the Providence Day girls' tennis program, but the Charger tennis machine keeps on going, churning out four of the last five state championships with a different group of talented players nearly every season.
Three of the top six starters from last year's perfect 21-0 state-title team are gone, including all-state No. 1 Gabby Gabriel, who now is playing at Appalachian State. The Chargers also will be without their No. 2 from a year ago for most of the season, as senior Umarah Mughnee is recovering from shoulder surgery in June.
As he has in the past, coach Ryan Harper will reload and the team will have championship aspirations after winning nearly 100 matches and losing only six in the last five years.
"Every year we lose great players and the team changes a little bit," Harper said. "But that is just part of (high school) tennis, and you have to accept it and move on. I wouldn't say we're down this year; in fact, we might be a little up."
The Chargers have a logjam of talent at the top of the lineup, with as many as four players still vying for the top spot.
Junior Samantha Light, who transferred from Blair Academy (N.J.), is the early favorite to hold the No. 1 spot. She also is a top talent on the USTA junior circuit.
Senior Allyson Hoppe, junior Linley Busby and sophomore Alexandra Lee also are challenging for top positions in both singles and doubles.
Junior Mollie Sandler and sophomores Emma Pixley and Joanna Voss, a German exchange student, should round out a talented lineup that forms one of the deepest teams in Charlotte and the NCISAA. Harper says he wouldn't mind starting any one of the 13 girls on the varsity team.
"One of the keys to our success is that we are very close as a team and everybody has a common goal," Hoppe said. "The pressure to win (a state title) just gives us more motivation. We work harder because everyone wants to keep our tradition going."
The Chargers have played in the state championship in each of Harper's five seasons, with their only loss coming in 2008. Since then, Providence Day has lost only twice in two seasons.
That kind of success has allowed the team to focus on bigger goals, like going unbeaten or winning national tournaments. On Oct. 19, the team will travel to Laguna Beach, Calif., where they will compete in the Dana Hills Championship - formerly the High School All-American tournament - against some of the nation's best just a week before the NCISAA championships on Oct. 28-29 at Wesleyan Christian.