There have been a couple of close calls, but midway through the season, the Greenwich Academy squash team finds itself in a familiar situation -- a position most teams can only dream about.
Six matches into their 2010-11 campaign, the Gators are undefeated and already resemble a team that's primed to defend its titles.
Thursday, The Taft School became the latest formidable opponent to fall to powerhouse GA, as the host Gators displayed their depth in an efficient 6-1 triumph.
The Gators, who have won Division I of the U.S. High School National Championships three consecutive years and the New England title 14 straight seasons, showcased the strength of their impressive lineup top to bottom.
"We have great depth," GA first-year coach Suzie Pierrepont said. "A lot of teams have two or three great players at the top and then fade at the bottom. With our team, on any given day, our players can beat each other. That's the joy of coaching this team -- there are so many strong players in one group."
Greenwich Academy (6-0) has received its share of tough tests so far. Their second and third matches of the season saw them post consecutive 4-3 victories against Deerfield Academy and rival Convent of the Sacred Heart.
"The matches have been real tough so far and have been closer this year," said GA senior co-captain Anna Harrison, who plays at the No. 1 spot. "That makes it more exciting."
Harrison played well in falling to Taft's Sachika Balvari 12-10, 11-8, 11-2 in a matchup featuring two of the better No. 1 players in New England. She has made a strong showing in each match in her first season at the team's top player. Last year's senior standout, Lilly Fast, filled the role at No. 1 a year ago.
"It has been going real well for me so far," Harrison said. "Playing under Lilly and watching her last year was a big help. I had always been looking forward to playing No. 1 my senior year."
Balvari and Harrison were tied at 10-10 the first game, but Taft's top star took the final two points to take a 1-0 advantage.
"It has been real competitive and has given me a lot of motivation," Harrison said of playing at the No. 1 position.
Alex Lunt, also a senior co-captain, looked in postseason form in defeating Rachel Barnes 3-1 (11-1, 7-11, 11-4, 11-1).
"It was a great match, she is a good player so I had to keep my intensity up," Lunt said.
Said Pierrepont: "Anna and Alex have done a great job of leading our team. Their personalities complement each other and they have really helped the team bond."
Junior Nina Scott has successfully made the transition from No. 4 to playing at the second spot in the lineup. Keeping the ball deep and avoiding mistakes, Scott convincingly swept Ellie O'Neill at No. 2, 11-6, 11-2, 11-1.
"I really like the challenge of playing No. 2," Scott said. "It's nice to play different people."
Scott said being on a team that features a high level of talent helps each player.
"We have so much depth on our team, everyone is a strong player and everyone plays at basically, the same level," Scott said. "Everyone challenges each other at practice."
Pierrepont, a native of Brighton England, had an exciting start to her first season at the helm. She watched intently as her squad pulled out a 4-3 win against Deerfield on Dec. 5.
"It was a back-and-forth match and I was real nervous," said Pierrepont, who is half of the No. 1 doubles pairing in the world and was once ranked 24th in the world in singles play.
"GA has a big habit of winning and I didn't want one of the first matches to be the one that broke it. But the girls really stepped up."
GA actually lost a match to Darien 4-3 on Jan. 4, but it was considered a scrimmage since Darien is a mixed team, comprised of five boys. Still the Gators gave them all they could handle. The players, who will be on GA's courts at 6 a.m. today for practice, enjoy Pierrepont's practice routines.
"Our practices are always productive and we are always focused," Lunt said. "We get a lot out of our practices. To be on the court working hard the whole time really pays off."
Taft will host the Gators on Jan. 29, and in less than a month, GA will travel to Yale University for the national championships.
"I know there are some really good teams out there, which should make it a really good tournament," Pierrepont said. "I think we are building up to it and hitting our stride. We're playing with discipline and not getting sloppy."