The Rev. Raymond Lelii, the tennis coach at Gonzaga High School, gets straight to the point when asked the difference between the last two years and the first 20 of his tenure.
"We're winning," said Lelii, who has been head coach since 1964. "Up to the past few years, we've always come up short."
For the second straight year, the Eagles are celebrating the Metro Conference championship -- the D.C. school's third conference title.
"We sort of went into the season knowing we were the best," said junior Kevin Mulcahy. "It felt good to win it again."
"It's kind of a relief because we were expected to win it," said senior captain Matt Flanagan. "But, it still feels good because we knew we were doing something good for the school. To bring another banner in, that's nice."
Gonzaga went undefeated in 16 league matches.
"This is the best team I've ever had," Lelii said without hesitation.
The team developed as a mobile one, in a matter of speaking. Gonzaga has no tennis courts, so the Eagles have had to practice elsewhere, including at Trinity College, Georgetown Visitation "and off of Brickyard Road in a neighborhood in Potomac," Lelii said.
"We've been kind of scrounging for courts."
The talent was there, however. The players agree that they were the best team because of their depth.
"We have a deeper team from 1 through 6," said No. 6, junior Ben Watkins. "We won it last year, but last year we didn't have what we had this year."
"We really hurt other teams down at the bottom," Flanagan said.
The bottom, 4 through 6, was best in the league. Watkins went undefeated in the conference as the anchor man, while sophomore Matt Carbone (No. 5) and freshman Brad Blommer (4) each lost only once.
Flanagan (undefeated) was No. 1, Mulcahy (two losses) was No. 2 and another freshman, Paul Anthony (also undefeated), was No. 3.
Before the season, Lelii was counting on good play from Flanagan, Mulcahy and Watkins, but worried about two open spaces caused by graduation. Anthony and Blommer filled in without a hitch.
"We were going to have trouble without the two freshmen," Lelii said.
Both players had to make adjustments. Anthony had to get used to playing regularly outdoors for the first time, and managed it with some extra match work last summer under Lelii's guidance.
Blommer needed confidence and got it in gaining his slot.
"I'd never thought I'd get to play No. 4," Blommer said, "but that was a great achievement. It was great from then on."
Flanagan and Anthony play a serve-and-volley game, Carbone and Mulcahy have versatile styles and Watkins and Blommer stay at the baseline.
The only problem the Eagles seemed to have from time to time was complacency. Too much joking around sometimes bothers Lelii.
"We're pretty laid back," Flanagan said. "We have a good time out there."
When victory was in reach, however, it was a different matter.
"There was a lot of emotion," Mulcahy said. "We really scream when we got one match to go. It was a lot of fun."
In addition to the team championship, Gonzaga's players did extremely well in the recent Metro Conference singles tournament, where three of the six finished first.