By routine and history, the girls' tennis team at Doherty always reserved the first weekend in May for its traditional road trip to the regional 5A tournament.
Well, cancel those hotel reservations, because the Spartans finally received a reward for winning the Colorado Springs Metro League regular-season title for the fourth straight season: a long-sought chance to host the Region 8 tournament. Action starts at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday at Doherty.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Spartans senior doubles player Abbie Stultz said. "We haven't had this feeling before."
That's because no one has.
"We've never hosted," said Spartans coach Cheri Rogers, in her 17th season at the District 11 school. "We've had some awesome teams during that time, but never gotten to do it."
The past three years, Doherty also won the CSML title, but that wasn't enough to secure a home-based regional tournament. But this season, the Colorado High School Activities Association changed its tune, switching from points from previous seasons to league standing to determine the eight schools to host regionals.
After losing seven seniors to graduation in 2013, Rogers didn't think this would be the season that her Spartans would win league when it really mattered, with the services of only four returning letter-winners, most at the junior varsity level.
In other words, Rogers figured a rebuilding year was in the offing.
"This is a miracle year," Rogers said. "Honestly, we looked at who we had, we had lost a lot of kids. In the very beginning, we just took one match at a time, and let's see what we can do. It's amazing if you could have seen what they looked like at the beginning of the season."
The play of Stultz and doubles partner Allyssa Ross illustrated that point perfectly.
Undefeated on junior varsity a year ago, the tandem, both seniors, took the jump to varsity together and blossomed in their only season. Only a 10-8 tiebreaker loss in the third set to Ponderosa - one of the seven schools that will be traveling to Doherty - broke up a perfect season in 17 matches at the No. 4 slot.
"They worked hard to get where they are," Rogers said. "A lot of girls were unproven at the varsity level. When we started league, we started being really successful. After we beat Pine Creek, we thought we might as well try to beat everybody else, and we did."
Despite not getting a chance to hang out on a long trip as in the past, Ross found a few benefits to playing at home for a change.
"You get to sleep in your own beds and get a good night's sleep," Ross said. "And we have the students and friends and family close by, and they can come by in off periods. The support is huge."
And should any of the Spartans make it through and qualify for state, then a longer trip will be in order.
"This is the first time in 12 years that we haven't had an overnight trip," Rogers said. "If we go to state, then they'll get that overnight trip. That's the incentive, I guess."