Call it experience or call it an expectation. Either of them would fit the 2004 Dallastown boys' tennis team's journey to the state championship.
In 2003, the Wildcats finished second in the PIAA Class AAA team tournament.
That experience and having, according to head coach Mark Koons, "Probably the four best players I have ever coached," on the same team, made a return trip to the state tournament an expectation for the Wildcats.
"We had a ton of talent," said Koons. "Trying to keep a handle on expectations (was the hardest part of the season). We knew we were the favorites to win it, and we were reminded of that by everyone."
Led by No. 1 Andrew Holmes and No. 3 Billy Heird, the Wildcats beat Upper St. Clair, 3-1, to win the first team championship at Dallastown.
"What I remember is our team chemistry," Holmes said. "These were all players I knew very well and we got along very well. We were very competitive with each other and in terms of high school tennis as well. It's all just good memories."
Holmes, who played at No. 1 all four years of his Dallastown career finished second in the District 3 singles tournament before teaming with Heird to capture the PIAA Class AAA doubles title in 2004.
"A clutch player who stepped up when the team needed him to every time," Koons said of Holmes.
What made that doubles title even more interesting was the fact that it fell on Saturday, May 29, 2004, the same date of Dallastown's prom in Baltimore. So how was Holmes going to attend both events, with the state doubles title being played in State College?
"I took a small plane from the State College airport to down close to Baltimore. That was a fun day. I remember the plane ride being slightly terrifying because it was a tiny, tiny prop plane," said Holmes.
The plane's pilot was a mutual friend of Holmes' parents.
"We planned it as soon as we knew I'd be playing the same day as prom. I made it to prom just in time," said Holmes, who went on to graduate from Notre Dame and who currently lives in Boston.
Phil Bayliss played at No. 2 and won the District 3 singles championship in 2004, beating Conestoga Valley's Alex Mast, 6-1, 7-6 (2), in the finals. Bayliss played tennis at St. Joseph's University and currently resides in Texas.
Heird collected a third-place state singles medal in 2004. He grew up across the street from Holmes where they drew tennis courts in the street with chalk and played for hours. The fact the two of them shared the same court when they won the doubles title made it even more special.
"That was pretty neat to see how far we had come," Heird said of winning with Holmes. "That was the most fun year I had in tennis. We went undefeated that year. We couldn't have lost more than 10 matches as individuals that year."
Heird, who is currently living in North Carolina, was a sophomore in 2004 and went on to carve out a fantastic career as a Wildcat.
"He's without a doubt the most decorated player in Dallastown tennis history," said Koons.
Exchange student Markus Zellinger played at No. 4 and teamed with Ryan Fickes as Dallastown's No. 1 doubles team. That duo finished third in the state doubles tournament.
Zellinger was a crucial piece in the Dallastown cog.
"When I found out how good our exchange student was, I knew we were going to be very tough to beat," said Koons.
Matt Waggenspack and Sid Maggia played at No. 2 doubles.
The team also got to reap the rewards of its accomplishments when they traveled to Harrisburg and were recognized on the floor of the state senate by Rep. Ron Miller. The Wildcats also got to ride a fire truck during the Dallastown Memorial Day Parade.
"When you're winning, it's easy to get along and have a good time and we did a lot of winning. We had a lot of fun," Heird said.