Westwood School senior tennis star Sydnee Smith, front row, center, signs a scholarship with Georgia Southwestern State University on Tuesday in Camilla. Smith, a four-time GISA Class A girls state singles champ and two-time Herald Player of the Year, was joined by, front row, from left, father, Tim, and mother Jenni, as well as, back row, from left, Westwood football coach Ross Worsham, Westwood A.D. Jennifer Good, Westwood tennis coach Carole Powell, sister Callie Smith and grandmother Elizabeth Collins. (Westwood School/Special to The Herald)
CAMILLA — On the day Westwood’s Sydnee Smith won her fourth consecutive GISA Class A state tennis title, head coach Carole Powell said simply, “She’s an amazing player. There may not be another like her ever at Westwood.”
Maybe they will be saying the same thing at Georgia Southwestern years from now.
That’s how Powell feels about Smith, who is graduating soon and headed to Americus, where she will play at Georgia Southwestern State next season.
And the Lady Hurricanes can’t wait to get her.
“I spent more time recruiting her than anyone in a long time,’’ said GSW tennis coach Brennan Sewell, who was delighted when Smith signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday in Camilla to accept a scholarship.
Smith’s numbers at Westwood are mind-boggling. Not only did she win four GISA Class A state titles in a row, but she made the state semifinals as an eighth-grader. Smith lost only one match on the court during her entire career, and she did not lose a single game during a senior season that was punctuated with 6-0 win after 6-0 win.
She was 87-1 on the court in matches she finished. She took a loss last year to Deerfield-Windsor’s Joyner Tyson when Smith was forced to retire mid-match because of an injured knee. Other than that, she went more than 1,000 days without a loss.
“She’s just special,’’ Powell said Wednesday. “That’s all you can say about her. She’s one of those kids who come along once in a lifetime.’’
Several schools had interest in Smith, who is a two-time Herald Player of the Year, and is in the running to win the award again this year. Smith said her choice came down to two schools.
“The only schools I was really looking at were ABAC and Georgia Southwestern,’’ she said. “But (my mind was made up) after coach Sewell came to Macon and watched me play in the state championships. That meant a lot. Plus, all their players are returning next year and we have a good chance to make (some noise in) the conference tournament.”
Sewell believes Smith can contribute right away, and believes her upside is tremendous because Smith played on Westwood’s state-finalist basketball team and competed for Westwood’s state champion track & field team.
“She’s going to be an impact player for us, especially now that she is concentrating on only tennis,’’ Sewell said. “I’ve had other players come in who were in other sports (in high school) and they really improved. They have been dividing their time and tennis doesn’t take up that much of their time. There is a lot of improvement. Two or three years down the road, Sydnee will be tremendously better.’’
Smith’s greatest attribute is her unwavering ability to stay focused on the court.
“I really like her concentration,’’ Sewell said. “She’s really zoned in on every ball.’’
Smith could supply an immediate lift to a program that went 8-13 and only 3-9 in the Peach Belt Conference last year. Sewell said he thought GSW was the perfect fit for Smith.
“Both her parents went to Southwestern and both were on the basketball teams here,’’ he said of her mother Jenni, who coaches Westwood’s girls basketball team, and her father Tim, who serves as her private tennis coach.
Still, Smith said she made the decision to become a Lady Hurricane without any nudging from her parents.
“No, they didn’t put any pressure on me,’’ she said. “They said from the very beginning it was my decision.”
It wasn’t an easy decision.
“It was a kind of a relief,’’ Smith said of picking GSW. “I was thinking about it all the time, weighing the pros and cons. Once I made the choice, I felt I could finally relax.”
She still hasn’t decided on a major.
“I have no idea right now,’’ she said. But she did do her homework on GSW.
“I went up there to practice with them in November and then I went back this spring before state,’’ Smith said. “And all the players were not only really nice and welcoming, but they made it a point to walk by and say, ‘Hey.’ So they all remembered me, and that made me feel good and comfortable. That was important to me.”