Defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud and archrival Ashley Hall should continue to be strong this fall, but it’s questionable whether either of the local powers will be strong enough to hold off a young Hilton Head Prep team.

Hilton Head Prep won last year’s Region III crown before falling to Porter-Gaud’s Cyclones in the state final. Hilton Head Prep carved out its sudden rise with four eighth-graders and a freshman along with a lone senior at No. 5.

Porter-Gaud lost star senior Mi’Kola Cooper to Morgan State as well as No. 4 Carissa Stichen to graduation, but two-time All-Lowcountry Annie Hay is back for her senior season along with a strong cast of younger players.

Ashley Hall’s Panthers can’t be overlooked, not with 2011 Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall leading a group of veteran players, although coach Mary Gastley’s team lost No. 3 Margaret Legerton and No. 6 Sally Chamberlain to graduation, and No. 2 Courtney Geiss has decided not to play high school tennis her junior year.

In the High School League, Bishop England looks like a safe bet to win a second straight Class AA title behind juniors Liza Arruda, Caroline Yodice and Hannah Simpson. The only obstacle for coach Kristin Fleming’s team might be in overcoming Waccamaw’s stellar senior duo of Tolley Rice and Sarah Elliott in the top two positions.

The big drop this fall appears to be at Wando, which had been a state finalist the last two seasons after six straight Class AAAA state titles under Becky Williamson. But the Warriors have lost their top four players, including All-Lowcountry performers Catherine Martin and Melanie Allen. Martin has opted for online schooling for her senior year and Allen has moved out of the area.

Martin transfers to South Carolina

Alex Martin will be playing tennis the next three years at a location considerably closer than the University of Texas where she played last season. Martin has transferred to the University of South Carolina on a full tennis grant and is scheduled to be eligible this school year as a sophomore under new coach Kevin Epley.

Martin selected the Gamecocks over Alabama and LSU. Epley, a former William & Mary coach, has taken over as South Carolina’s women’s coach after the death of longtime coach Arlo Elkins.

Wild card eludes Shelby Rogers

Mallory Burdette’s championship run to the $100,000 U.S. Pro Circuit event in Vancouver swept away Shelby Rogers’ hopes of winning a wild card into the U.S. Open by earning the most WTA Tour ranking points from Pro Circuit events in Yahima, Wash., Lexington, Ky., and Vancouver.

Burdette, the NCAA singles runner-up from Stanford, was awarded 140 ranking points just for winning the $15,200 first prize in Vancouver. Rogers netted 88 points from winning the $50,000 tournament in Yahima and making the quarterfinals in Kentucky. Rogers’ hopes for the wild card were jolted by a second-round qualifying loss in Vancouver.

Local notes

• The Lowcountry Tennis Association will hold its annual party on Sept. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center, coinciding with the the opening night of the Charleston Pro Tennis League.

• In LCTA news, fall team registrations are scheduled to start next Sunday.

• At Charleston Tennis Center as well as at city-operated Maybank Tennis Center, new annual membership rates for non-city residents now double the rates for city residents. Fees for city residents were not increased for 2012-13 while adult non-city rates skyrocketed by nearly 70 percent.

• Today is the deadline to enter next weekend’s rated adult tournament at Charleston Tennis Center. Competition will be held in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Registration is available online at www.sctennis.com, using tournament number 700008812.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.