LANSING | They don't talk about it, but you know it is in the air.
After a sixth-place finish at the IHSA state meet last year and with all six state qualifiers returning, the T.F. South badminton team has higher goals for this year -- a state title.
Rebels coach Bob Tengstrand makes no bones about having high expectations and likes the pressure.
"Some people say there is pressure being No. 1, but I told the girls that I would rather be No. 1 than No. 5," Tengstrand said. "We told them we expect them to be in the running (for a state title)."
Singles players Jessica Gomez and Andriana Johnson, and the doubles teams of Shannon Pollard and Jenna Pasko, and Jhennie Corpuz and Cassie Breshock all return and said the experience is a plus.
"I think the experience from last year is definitely a plus," Gomez said. "Our goal is to get better for sectionals, and to win state."
Gomez was 50-3 last year and the team was 19-0, wining all five invitationals it was in. It also won the South Suburban Conference and a sectional team title.
Johnson said the Rebels must first set the tone in the regular season, which began Thursday against Argo.
"We want to be ready come sectionals," Johnson said. "We have more experience, but we are not overconfident.
"We are really a good group who roots for each other."
One thing that goes with being the favorite is pressure and Tengstrand said that is good to an extent.
"You want to have that on you as an incentive to do well," Tengstrand said. "They worked hard to get where they are at. I tell them that I have high expectations not to pressure them, but because I know what they can do."
Pollard said the pressure can be good.
"It is good if you look at it as a challenge," Pollard said. "We just have to go out and play each match hard and not worry about that. We are a good team and we are strong at every position.
"'T' (Tengstrand) does put some pressure on us, but it is good pressure because he expects us to go out and play well."