For the past six seasons, the VISAA Division II boys tennis championship trophy has called one place home: The Covenant School.
The Eagles would like to see that number extended to seven as they begin state semifinal play Friday against North Cross.
"We're definitely all really excited, I think we're playing pretty well, so I think we have a really good shot coming into this next one," Covenant senior William Rose said. "The competition is definitely really good this year. But we're a solid team. So it will just be whatever team plays better that day."
"Obviously there's going to be some emotion there but the main thing now is to keep them grounded, have a couple good practices here and be ready for tomorrow," head coach Patrick Kearns added.
The Eagles and Raiders are no strangers to one another. The two teams played in last year's championship, and split two meetings this season, with Covenant winning the VIC Championship game over the Raiders.
But in years past where Covenant was the top seed going into the Tournament, this year they're No. 3, with Highland No. 1 and North Cross No. 2, making the road to championship No. 7 that much tougher.
"Even though we've won six in a row, this is going to be one of the hardest ones if we want to win it," Rose said. "I don't know, it's kind of different this year even though we've won a lot. We're going to have to fight really hard because we know that unlike in the past when we were definitely the favorite, this year could go either way."
"I guess it's about fighting through the Tournament whereas in past years it was about just being a really good team and coming out and beating the other teams," fellow senior Sam Adamson added.
The Eagles beefed up their schedule this year to prepare them for this weekend. They played several VISAA Division I teams early in the season, and often ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. But they say those losses made them better.
"I think it gave us perspective of what we are. We've won six straight state championships so you can get kind of cocky sometimes but that showed us that you can still lose really badly," Rose explained. "We lost to a team 9-0 so that kind of put us in our place a little bit."
"It was kind of a wake-up call for us that we needed to really fight this year," Adamson added.
Adamson and Rose are the Eagles' top doubles pair, and two of the team's best singles players. But Covenant's key to winning this weekend may be the strong play it gets from players lower in the lineup.
"Certain matches down the ladder, we're going to win," Adamson said. "So we don't have to worry so much about winning 1 and 2 because we know 3-4-5-6 are going to win."
"The teams that we're playing against are top-heavy. You can be good at the top but every match counts," Kearns explained. "And I think that's the difference we have. We have six solid guys and that's what's going to take us over the top."