The future made its arrival a little early for Ryan Scroggin this spring.
Fielding a cast of underclassmen around senior returnee Ross Martin, the Carrollton High School boys' tennis head coach never anticipated what was in store for the regular season, let alone another deep postseason run.
But the 2018 Trojans weren't willing to settle for rebuilding and took the court by storm to rattle off a fourth consecutive region championship and run to the Class AAAAA elite eight.
Unfortunately, Tuesday marked the end of the road for the season in a 3-1 setback to Starr's Mill in a rematch of last year's state finals.
And even though it proved to be a tough pill to swallow, this talented young crew had nothing to hang its head about when all was said and done.
"That's what I just told them. I know it's tough when you lose, but nobody expected nothing out of this group of boys this year," Scroggin said. "I knew we were talented, but I also knew that we were very young.
"At the beginning of the season, we took some lumps and I thought, 'This could be a long season.' But I made some changes to the lineup and the team started coming together, started believing in themselves. I feel like the turnaround of the season was the first time we played Woodland. They were having a strong season and we go in there struggling and shocked them. Then we really started turning it around."
Carrollton recorded its lone win on Tuesday from freshman Matthew Harvey at No. 2 singles in a 6-0, 6-1 decision to jump out to the early 1-0 edge in the match.
Starr's Mill countered with wins at No. 1 singles and No. 3 singles to take a 2-1 advantage as No. 1 Aidan Coleman (3-6, 0-6) and No. 3 Harrison Rogers (2-6, 2-6) fell in straight sets.
That put the pressure in the doubles court, where No. 1 Martin/Will Brown and No. 2 Noah Kamishlian/Nicholas Hawkins both fought through three-set battles.
After dropping their first set in a 6-3 decision, Martin and Brown rallied for a 6-2 win and were trailing 5-4 when the Panthers secured the win at No. 2 doubles to end the match with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 finale to keep their hopes of capturing back-to-back state crowns alive as they move on to the semifinals to face the winner between Buford and Ola.
For the Trojans, the past few weeks created a tremendous opportunity for the younger players to gain invaluable state playoff experience and build for the future.
"Most definitely. A lot of these freshmen, they followed us last year at the state tournament," Scroggin said. "We took them all to the state championship match, so they sort of had an idea of what it was like for the state playoff match. Hat's off to Starr's Mill. They've got a great program. We came out on the wrong end, but we didn't just give up."
And for the lone senior Ross, it marked a fitting farewell to a cornerstone of the program over the past four years, highlighted by back-to-back runs to the state finals during his sophomore and junior seasons.
"It was interesting for him because he was real close to the team last year and a lot of those seniors. But he came out and said he wanted to make one more run," Scroggin said. "He started out the year and hurt his knee a little bit. He didn't play a few matches, but we slowly worked him back into the lineup, and that was a strong addition to get him back. He had a great career with four region championships, two years in the elite eight and two runner-ups. He's used to going a little further, but he has nothing to hang his head about, either. The rest of them are ninth and 10th-graders. I think the future is going to be bright."