John Mittvick hears it quite a bit -- "Wow, you are a freshman?"
Mittvick, the No. 1 singles player on the St. Charles North boys tennis team, isn't the only ninth-grader on varsity. There are three fellow freshmen along with 4 sophomores leading the way for the North Stars this year.
Perhaps he stands out because he's the tallest of the 8 underclassmen. Or perhaps its because of his tennis skills.
"People ask me what year I am, and I say I'm a freshman and they say, 'Oh, I thought you were a junior or a senior,'" Mittvick said. "No, I'm just a freshman."
The other starting freshman are No. 3 singles Patrick Corrigan and the No. 4 doubles duo of Stephen Gow and Kevin Moore.
The sophomores starters are No. 2 singles Nikhil Mehta, the No. 1 doubles team of David Johnson and Christian Hoskey, and Alex Enscat, half of the No. 3 doubles team.
Most of them can't drive a car. (Johnson was in high hopes of getting his license this week.) Two of the 8 wear braces. Mittvick is the tallest at 6-foot with Johnson around 5-11. The rest are no taller than 5-9.
But boy, can they play tennis and lead a varsity team -- and will continue to do so for the next few years.
St. Charles North coach Tim Matacio has been with the program ever since it started in 2000 and he's never seen such a wave of youth dominance.
The only time the tennis team had this many freshmen and sophomores was when the school only had underclassmen. But back then, the team wasn't as strong as it is now.
"This is a little different for me because I am not used to dealing with freshmen so much," Matacio said. "They act like freshman boys -- they just don't play tennis like kids.
"They are goofy off the court, but all business on the court."
Mittvick is 11-2 this year and has been playing tennis since he was three years old.
"It's been crazy," Mittvick said. "I'm just really happy I get to play No. 1 singles."
Mehta is 4-4 in singles play and 3-2 in doubles. As a freshman last year, he was teamed up with Alex Kurian but has mainly been a singles player this year.
"I like it, it's fun and it's better than doubles," Mehta said of playing singles.
Corrigan is 5-2 in singles and 5-1 in doubles with Gow. Like Mehta, he's mainly a singles player.
"I like (varsity) a lot," Corrigan said. "We are all pretty close and it's just a really good group. I like how I am playing. It will prepare me in my later years."
Johnson was the first freshman in school history to qualify for state as a freshman last year. He's the only one with state experience.
He and his doubles partner last year, then-senior Adam Screeden, won the sectional doubles title. They won two rounds in the consolation round at state last year.
"Last year, I was playing with a senior and I had some good success," said Johnson, who has been playing since he was 5. "I wanted to keep that going this year."
Johnson and his new partner Hoskey are 7-1.
"It's going really good, we play well together," Hoskey said. "Originally, I was a singles player, but I like getting the experience in both. It's nice."
Enscat, who is paired with junior Grant Johnston, is 9-2.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Enscat, who has been taking lessons since he was 5. "We've won most of our matches, so it's going pretty good."
Gow and Moore are 2-3 together.
"I like doubles," said Gow, whose older sister Megan is a senior who played for the North Stars and is one of three state qualifiers in North Star history. "It's more fun and it's more of a team sport."
"I went to middle school with all of them, so we've played a lot of tennis together," Moore added. "It's kinds of cool our No. 1 singles player is a freshman. That means we are going to have a great team when we are juniors and seniors. We have high hopes for the team."
Matacio knows this year was years in the making. He said he's known his younger players since they were in third and fourth grades and have encouraged them to play ever since.
He said their success can be credited to playing year-round on travel teams and private lessons.
"We are dealing with little boys, but not really because with tennis, if you are not pretty good at this point, you will never be pretty good," Matacio said. "You have to be a player who has been playing in tournaments since you were 12 and under. What we have here is people used to being in performance-type situations, kind of a grown-up situation, but they aren't grown-ups. They are still just goofy guys, but they have this talent, gift and drive. In tennis, you have to have drive."
These North Stars have drive all right. Already, they have their sights set on winning the Upstate Eight Conference, sectional and state titles.
"We have a lot of good things on the way," Hoskey said.
"It's not hard (to look ahead) because I think we are going to be really good," Johnson said.
"I kind of expected this would be a really strong season," Mittvick added. "I think, geez, if we are doing this now, I think how far can we get when I'm a junior and all the sophomores are seniors? It's pretty hard not to look ahead."