When last seen on the court for the Lakeside High Lady Panthers tennis team, Anneliese Leahy faced the pressure of playing the deciding match against Starr’s Mill in the 2013 Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state girls championship.
The Lady Panthers’ No. 3 singles player lost her first set 2-6, but rebounded to win 7-6, 6-4, propelling the team to its first state championship. On Dec.2 at Lakeside, the pressure wasn’t nearly as great, but the stakes for her personal life were raised when she signed a letter of intent to play tennis at Division II Georgia Southwestern State University (Americus, Ga.), which plays in the Peach Belt Conference.
“It is definitely as exciting, I think, maybe almost as exciting,” said Leahy, comparing signing to winning the championship. “That was probably the highlight of my entire high school experience.”
While playing tennis was a major part of her decision, other factors figured into it.
“I went and looked at six or seven schools and I got a couple of offers, but Georgia Southwestern stood out because they have a guaranteed acceptance program for nursing,” Leahy said. “And their team was all American, which made them easier to relate to.”
After winning the championship, she rolled into the summer season, which was crucial for her being seen by colleges.
“We did camps almost all summer long which prepared us for the tournaments during the summer which are the biggest tournaments of the year, and of course we had college coaches at those tournaments,” said Leahy, currently the No. 44-ranked player in Georgia. “They look at your ranking at the end, whenever you apply to them.”
Gary Henderson, her coach at Petersburg Racquet Club, thinks she has the game for the next level. “She’s certainly got a big game, so at the college level she may be suited more to the doubles game only because she volleys well and returns well and hits the ball hard.”