Coach Jerry Pate says the groundwork for Arts & Sciences' first-ever tennis state-tournament appearance today was laid out long before the 2011 team hit the court.
It's just the one to reap the benefits.
The Patriots (11-1) take their first crack at a Class A/AA state championship today at 2 p.m. EDT, when they battle Christian Academy of Knoxville in the team semifinals at Old Fort State Park.
CSAS is one of seven Chattanooga-area teams in TSSAA semifinals today. Also in Class A/AA, the Chattanooga Christian girls (12-3) will face CAK as 4 p.m. In Division II-AA, Baylor's girls (11-0) will face Harpeth Hall in one noon semifinal while GPS (7-3) faces Hutchison in the other.
Baylor's boys (8-2) take on Memphis University School while McCallie (7-5) battles Montgomery Bell Academy at 10 a.m.
In Class AAA, McMinn County's 15-0 boys will take on Brentwood in a 2010 state-championship rematch, won 4-0 by the midstate power.
CSAS has had one individual tennis champion - Stan Goss in 2002 - and Pate believes the team opportunity was long overdue.
"We've always had good players, but we just never had enough at one time to take that step," Pate said. "It's just as much a tribute to those guys from the past as it is to the players who have got us where we are today.
"This team has worked hard to get there, and we hope to get up there and make everybody else proud."
McMinn coach Susan Ray said the Cherokees excited about competing against the team that ended their state-title hopes a year ago.
"There's not going to be any uncertainty as far as their players," Ray said. "We know what we're going up against.
"These guys are considered more of the 'strong horses,' but we like the role of underdog. We're just going to go for it because we have nothing to lose, and I think that's when we play stronger."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.