The Nicolet boys tennis program, with its many state titles and countless conference championships, knows how to inspire its players and keep the drive for success going.

Each spring before the boys season officially gets underway, coach Tim Koppa takes a select group of players down to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for some high level practices and sun.

This year, that trip had a little added bonus, said Koppa.

"The hitting was great and the weather, which can be occasionally iffy, was about 75-80 degrees every day," he said. "We got really lucky. We practiced twice a day and then we were able to go to Charleston and watch the Volvo Open (professional tournament). We didn't see any of the real matches, but we got to see the power series (a series of matches between past champions).

"So we got to watch James Blake, and Andy Roddick and John McEnroe. I remember growing up and watching McEnroe (in the 1980s) and how great he was. He's about 20 years older that Blake and Roddick now, but he really competed well with them."

With that, the defending North Shore Conference champions are ready to take on a short, but intense spring season.

They will have a series of experienced hands back, including the all-senior first doubles team of Jack Steinberger and Eli Winter, which took fifth at state last season. Other experienced hands include sophomore top singles player Jaden Aranda. His freshman brother, Ridley Aranda, will play in doubles with letter winner Ari Robinson.

Nicoilet lost only two out of its top 10 from last season so other singles players include letter winners Sunil Sabnis and Ben Chester.

Other doubles teams competing for spots include Eytan Robinson and Harry Rosmann and newcomers Joe Azbel and Scott Arenzon. Also playing singles will be Julian Lowe.

"We have a pretty good mix in the lineup," said Koppa

The spring has been a bit broken up because of foul weather and a late Easter date. As a result, the North Shore schools have had a variety of spring break dates, which makes it hard to coordinate schedules.

"We've had long, competitive practices, but the kids are about ready to play somebody else now," said Koppa.

Nicolet, which has had its spring break already, had two dual meets earlier in the week and will now be off for a time as a number of other schools in the area celebrate their breaks.

"We'll be among the top two, three, four teams in the state but it'll still be tough sledding," he said.

That's because the Knights are again in the same sectional as defending state champion Marquette, which Koppa feels may be stronger than ever.