By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- CB9.
That is the team motto for Central's boys tennis squad. The players say it in a team huddle before every match. It stands for "Country Boy," and the number nine represents the team's desire to win 9-0 in every match.
Soon, CB9 may be a permanent part of the players. The players decided as a group that they would each get a tattoo that says CB9 if they advance to the Group A state tournament this year.
"CB9 is something I came up with in my freshman year," Central senior Ethan Wilson said, after the Falcons' 7-2 win over Riverheads on Monday. "It was Kyle Willis' idea [for the tattoos]. And everybody was like, 'Sounds good.'
"It gives us a little more motivation. It's definitely something we're looking forward to."
The tattoos are just another example of the team bonding the Falcons have this season. The unity starts at the top of the ladder for the Falcons.
Wilson, David Hoye and Cody Jones play at the top three spots on the team and worked together in the offseason to improve their games.
The three attended clinics at Dominion Health and Fitness in Front Royal, they took lessons from former Central standout Mark Ryman and they played together as much as possible during the offseason.
"We tried to make each other better," Wilson said. "We're all around the same athletic ability, so we know helping each other will help make us a better team."
The three players are very close to each other in skill level, and Central coach Jeff Walters said that gives the Falcons an edge over other teams.
Despite each player being very competitive, the trio doesn't let that get in the way of their friendship.
"I've been playing since I was a freshman, and those two have been by my side the whole way," Hoye said. "We get along well. We can call each other up if we want to go out and play."
Walters said he always stresses team unity, and this year's group has really bought into it. Throughout matches the players high-five each other or will touch each other's rackets to motivate each other.
After a season-opening loss to Harrisonburg, Walters told his players it was their team and if they wanted to be successful it was up to them as a group to achieve their goals.
Central lost 7-2 to Millbrook earlier this season, but then beat the Pioneers, 5-4, in their second meeting.
"I think after the second match with Millbrook, the kids really started to believe we could do some things this year," Walters said. "Their goal is to win the region and make it to states. Then if we get to states, whatever happens, happens."
Central had played in Group AA the last four years, before dropping back to Group A this season. The Falcons were in the very difficult Northwestern District, now they are in the Shenandoah District, which has only two other teams.
Last year the Falcons finished tied for fourth in the Northwestern, and the players said the experience helped them prepare for this season.
"I think it definitely toughened us up," Jones said. "The Northwestern had a lot of really good teams. It's definitely different this year. We're playing a lot of teams that we don't know much about. But, we're doing really well."
To prepare for a possible regional berth, the Falcons loaded their schedule with Group AA teams.
The Falcons are 9-3, including 2-0 in the district. With two more wins, the Falcons will clinch a Region B semifinal berth against George Mason. The Mustangs are the only team in the Bull Run District and are automatically in regionals.
Central won the Group A state title in 1999, and was state runner-up in 2003. The Falcons haven't advanced to the state tournament since, and haven't been to regionals since 2004.
If they advance to the state tournament this year, they'll have a permanent reminder of the accomplishment.
"I think that would be great," Hoye said of the possible tattoo. "I'm all for it. But, I'm not sure how my mom would feel about it."