When they first met as kindergarteners at Evans Elementary School so many years ago, Alli Hillman and Brittany Jackson hit it off and became friends.
Later, they began taking shots at each other as competitors on the tennis court.
The friends became foes, as Hillman played on the Westminster School tennis team and Jackson wielded a racket for Augusta Christian School. Whenever AC and Westminster squared off in tennis during the 2003 season, the seniors usually wound up butting heads in doubles matches.
Now the rivals are ready to reunite as teammates and roommates at Young Harris College.
The 18-year-olds recently graduated from their respective high schools, and they both chose the same route to the next level by signing athletic scholarships to play tennis at Young Harris.
Brittany Jackson (left) and Alli Hillman have been friends for a long time and are both going to Young Harris College to play on the same tennis team.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"One day Alli and I were talking about college tennis, and we both decided we'd think about Young Harris and maybe play tennis there," Jackson said. "We both were accepted and both got scholarships to play tennis. It just all worked out."
Jackson's father attended Young Harris, so she was familiar with the junior college in north Georgia; when Hillman learned a few things about the school, she wanted to know more.
"I got something from Young Harris in the mail, and it looked interesting. I went for a tour of the campus, and I called Brittany and said, 'We need to look into this,' " Hillman said.
The Columbia County residents took a look, and liked what they saw. For Hillman, seeing a familiar face on campus this fall will be a bonus.
"I don't want to go to a school where I know everybody, but it's nice to have somebody I know there," Hillman said. 'I've always wanted to play on a college team, so I'm really excited about playing at Young Harris. I just want to play well and have fun."
After meeting at Evans Elementary, Hillman and Jackson took up tennis during the summer between their first- and second-grade years. Although they eventually attended different schools, the friendship remained because of tennis.
They continually crossed paths while taking tennis lessons and competing in tournaments. In high school, Jackson usually came out on top, as she helped lead Augusta Christian to a region title in 2002, then teamed with Maggie Holmes to take the region doubles crown this spring.
Hillman was part of the No. 1 doubles team at Westminster this past season, and she also played singles for the Lady Wildcats. She helped Westminster's doubles team earn a berth in the state tournament this year.
At Young Harris, Hillman and Jackson expect to play both singles and doubles for the Mountain Lions, and they are counting on combining their skills on a doubles squad.
Teaming up in college should be a perfect fit -- Hillman's specialty is backhand and net play, while Jackson's strengths are serve and forehand.
The best thing, though, might be that they still have plenty to learn about each other.
"We've been friends, but we haven't been together all the time," Jackson said. "That will make things easier, because we won't get sick of each other in college."
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