CHEYENNE – Josh Cossitt knew his team was young and inexperienced heading into the season. That didn’t come as any surprise.
Regardless, the Cheyenne South tennis coach had high expectations for his young core of players.
With the season nearing its end, it’s safe to say those expectations have been met.
“(Our team) didn’t only meet my expectations, but they really got challenged this season,” Cossitt said. “And we were able to put our guys in opportunities to get challenged and help them exceed those expectations.”
The Bison are comprised of four freshmen within the top six players on the team, something no other team in the state can say about itself.
Those four freshmen – Andrew and Nicolas Lock, Lukas Davidson and Armando Hernandez – helped lead South to a second-place finish at the South Regional in Green River last weekend.
South was tied with Cheyenne Central at 39 total points entering the final day of the tournament and leaped into second place after winning some big matches and finishing behind only Green River.
Junior Fletcher Mothershed took the title in the No. 2 singles bracket. Andrew Lock was second at No. 1 singles. Nicolas Lock and Davidson won the consolation finals bracket to earn a third-place finish at No. 2 doubles, while Hernandez and his partner, Josiah Moyte, also came away with a third-place finish at No. 1 doubles.
Because they’re so young, the Bison lack some physicality other teams have, Cossitt said. It was midway through the season, when South traveled more than 1,000 miles in two days, competing in four duals, that the physical differences between South and some other teams really stood out.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wyoming High School Activities Association said teams aren’t allowed to stay overnight, forcing them to travel back home each day.
A dual against Campbell County during that stretch, which South lost 4-1, was the turning point in the season.
“I knew it was going to be a physical test, and we kind of got bullied off the court (against Campbell County),” Cossitt said. “Our guys didn’t like it, and we definitely took that with us going into the next days.
“That was a turning point for all of our guys.”
Moyte confirmed that trip to Campbell County was a turning point for both him and his team.
“I didn’t start playing my best until after we went to Gillette,” he said. “I stopped getting out of my head and just started playing tennis and just continued to develop.”
Moyte and Mothershed were put into leadership roles as the only juniors on a roster that has no seniors.
The captains aren’t surprised about the success their younger teammates have had this season.
“The (younger) guys have really stepped up and have played great tennis,” Moyte said. “They’ve helped give us the chance to make it to the podium.”
Andrew and Nicolas Lock are the younger brothers of former South tennis player and three-time No. 1 singles state champion Brendan Lock. The last name has come with a target on their back after Brendan was a dominant force in the state before graduating in the spring.
Even with what might be added pressure because of the last name, the younger Locks have been key in the Bison’s success this season.
“Overall, (the season) has been pretty good, even though there have been times where I could’ve played better,” Andrew said. “There are just people trying their best because they want to beat a Lock, which means I have to play my toughest, too.”
Andrew lost in the regional final to Cheyenne East’s Mason Paskett. It was a learning experience for him, as it was his biggest match to date. Still, his second-place finish was a big contribution. He’s just eager for his team to continue their current level of play.
“Even though we’re young, it says a lot we took second at regionals,” Andrew said. “We’ll definitely have some teams trying to come back to beat us, but we’ll just have to show them we deserved to take second.”
Today, South and its young core will start first-round play at the state tennis championships in Gillette. Cossitt knows his team may not make a run at a team title, but the growth his team has had this season could lead to hanging banners in the future.
“We’re not that far off from really making something good happen,” the coach said. “Our young guys have definitely had an impact this season. … If they come back next year a little bigger and a little stronger, and we get the talent level up a little, we might be able to pull something off next year.
“I feel pretty good about that.”