Lenape rose into the upper echelon of South Jersey tennis the last two years because of top players such as singles stars Nikola Kocovic and Mike Humes.

But equally important for the Indians was the competitive fire fostered by coach Tony Guerrera.

That was especially true this season, as Lenape won the first Olympic Conference title in the history of the program and captured the South Jersey Group 4 title for the second year in a row. The first sectional title was in 2009, Guerrera's first season.

"Our last two years, Lenape tennis has embraced the role of 'leader' instead of 'follower,' " said Guerrera, South Jersey's tennis coach of the year. "I told the players, 'Let the other teams worry about keeping up with us.' "

Guerrera will be the first to say his players won the matches. Kocovic, the two-time South Jersey player of the year, is 35-0 entering Tuesday's quarterfinal round of the state singles tournament. Humes, a standout No. 2 singles player, finished 38-2. Mike Perrone was 28-5 at No. 3 singles, and the doubles teams of Marc Reynaud/Dan Sha and Kevin Lauria/Mike Sha were solid, too.

But Guerrera played his role. The Indians beat Cherry Hill East four times, captured the sectional title and beat Montgomery in the state semifinals before falling to eventual Tournament of Champions winner Westfield by a 3-2 score in the Group 4 state finals.

"He's one of the coolest guys I've ever met," Kocovic said of Guerrera. "He was a big part of our success."

Guerrera's neatest trick was getting Lenape's players to believe they belonged on equal footing with perennial South Jersey powers such as Cherry Hill East and Moorestown, as well as state powers such as Montgomery and Westfield.

The Indians don't have a rich history of success at the highest levels of competition. But they proved they belonged on the court with every opponent this season.

"Instead of fearing some perennial powerhouses, our team took on the role as the team to beat this year," Guerrera said.

"They embraced that role and the confidence carried them a long way. They were never satisfied with being competitive. They wanted it all, but came up one point short."