SARASOTA -- James Flanigan is only in his first season as Saint Stephen's boys tennis head coach, but he's well aware of just how potent his Falcons are this season.
Sporting three seniors, a sophomore and an eighth grader, Flanigan inherited a Saint Stephen's squad seasoned with experience.
But this Falcons team is also ripe with talent, and they demonstrated the latter in Monday's action at the Class 1A-District 9 tennis tournament held at the Longwood Run Athletic Club.
Saint Stephen's has all five of its singles players in the finals, which begin Tuesday at Out-of-Door Academy at 8:30 a.m. and leads the competition following the first day of play with 16 points in the team standings.
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"We've done really well through district play this year and all of my guys were really excited to come out here and play in this tournament," Flanigan said.
They were more than just excited in running through all their singles matches without dropping a set to the opposition.
The Falcons lead St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep (13 points) and the host Thunder (10) for one of the two regional berths up for grabs this week in district action.
Saint Stephen's boasts three players from the tennis factory known as IMG Academy and two of those players (Bernardo Sanson and William DeQuant) began in foreign lands prior to arriving in Bradenton.
But despite the oozing talent from top to bottom in their lineup and their unbeaten district record, the Falcons weren't taking things lightly on Monday.
"They go out and they just want to play," said Flanigan, whose club has only lost to Class 4A Sarasota Riverview this year. "They want to do well for the school, and they want to do well for their friends. It's a tight-knit group of kids. A lot of them have been playing on the team for two-plus years, so they know each other well."
The other locals in the 12-team district tournament are Bradenton Christian (six points) and Cardinal Mooney (zero points).
Meanwhile, the girls portion of the 1A-9 tourney was held at ODA.
On the strength of the powerful trio to begin their lineup, the Thunder cruised to the finals in all five sin
gles matches just like the Saint Stephen's boys did at Longwood Run.
Caroline Dailey (No. 1), Maria Ross (No. 2), M'balia Bangoura (No. 3) teamed with Alana Sherman (No. 4) and Savannah Sleight (No. 5) in collecting 17 points on the first day to take a small lead over Saint Stephen's (14 points) and Cardinal Mooney (13 points).
For ODA, though, the mindset is reaching the state tournament and winning. That's usually the thought with every program, but the Thunder has a rotation that's capable of accomplishing that feat.
Dailey's won three individual state titles, but took a year off from ODA to focus on the junior tennis circuit.
Now she's back to lead the Thunder to a potential state title. But also aiding in that process is a returning Sherman. She missed last season with tendonitis in her shoulder for a few months right after she made the team.
The freshman is brimming with confidence after she continued ODA's impressive start that matched the Falcons boys result in not dropping a set in five singles and one doubles matches.
"I want us to go to states, and I believe that my team can go to states and win it," Sherman said.
BCS (six points) rounds out the area participants in the field for the girls tournament.