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Mustangs have lofty tennis expectations
Grace Brantley braces to belt a forehand during a recent tennis practice at South Effingham. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON -- Regardless of what type of shot they face -- backhand, forehand or overhead volley -- South Effingham's tennis players always aim high.

The school's boys and girls teams enter the 2018 season expecting to finish at the top of the Region 2-AAAAA standings.

The Lady Mustangs advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament last year. It was the second time in school history that they accomplished that feat.

Coach Kristen Finlen has her entire corps of doubles players back from last year. Two of her leading singles players graduated, however.

"Graduation didn't totally devaste us but we still suffered a hit," she said.

Finlen said the 2018 lineup is a work in progress. The Lady Mustangs open the season Tuesday against New Hampstead at Scott Stell Park.

Kearstyn Bargeron is currently pegged at No. 1 singles.

"It could change many times," Finlen said. "Our No. 2 (Mallori Jenkins) is playing basketball right now."

Kayla Rogers is likely the Lady Mustangs' No. 3 in singles.

"In doubles, I have no idea what we're going to do," Finlen said.

Finlen has 11 returning players to pick from for each doubles match.

The lineup will be shaken up weekly by practice battles.

"They challenge each other and battle it out," Finlen said.

The battles are fierce but friendly.

"The players get along well and enjoy each other," Finlen said. "They fight hard on the court. It's a fun, hard-working group."

Mustangs coach Josh Cain feels the same way about his group, which is slim on experience.

"I think we have a good foundation to build on," he said.

Sophomore Zan Kreyenbuhl is penciled in at No. 1 singles for the boys. Junior Reese Allen and freshman Hunter Wainwright are likely at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

"It'll be good to have them all back next year," Cain said.

Cain's lone seniors, Conner Reinholdt and Matthew Grant, will play doubles.

"I don't know if they'll play No. 1 or No. 2. We'll just have to see how it shakes out," Cain said.

Cain believes the Mustangs can challenge for region supremacy despite their youth.

"I have some optimism," he said. "Winning the region championship is always the goal. If you can win region, then you get to host the first round of the state playoffs. We've never done that before.

"It'll be a good year, I think."