Ashton Morrison was looking forward to this season.
Morrison, a senior on South Forsyth’s girls tennis team, was a key member of last year’s team, the one that charged through the first two rounds of the Class 7A playoffs before falling to Walton in the quarterfinals.
The War Eagles took another step forward this year and were candidates to contend in a deeply competitive Region 5-7A, alongside established powers Lambert and Milton.
But that isn’t the only reason Morrison was excited for her senior year.
Morrison’s younger sister, Ansley Morrison, is a sophomore on the team, and the two decided they’d be doubles partners this season.
“At the beginning of the season coach asked me, ‘Do you want to spend your senior season playing doubles with your sister since this will probably be the last chance you get?’ So, I was kind of doing a little bit of that,” Morrison said. “As much as she would hate to admit it, we actually play really well together.”
These days, Ashton and Ansley still find themselves playing together, only on opposite sides of the court and against one another.
“I can still practice with her while still social distancing,” Ashton said. “So that’s nice, because I have a built-in hitting partner.”
South Forsyth’s boys tennis team had state championship aspirations, too.
The War Eagles, state champions back in 2018, came up short against Brookwood in the semifinals last year, 3-2. Brookwood then blanked North Cobb 3-0 in the title match.
“We’re definitely disappointed. We had another championship run in us,” South Forsyth boys tennis coach Jason Steele said. “We won state a couple years ago, we came a little short last year and this year our goal was another state title. Nothing is guaranteed, but we felt like we were the team to beat this year.”
Still, South Forsyth’s boys enjoyed a run of success over the past few years that few have. The War Eagles are 54-6 since 2018, including an undefeated 11-0 mark this year.
Other than the team’s state championship during his sophomore year — an obvious choice — what else will No. 1 singles player Will Fullett remember?
“I think more or less just the players I got to be on the team with all four years, and improving each year, from freshman year to now even though we didn’t get to play,” Fullett said, “it’ll all stick with me, for sure.”
Fullett signed earlier this year to play tennis at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
South Forsyth’s boys had five seniors this year, including Fullett, Ved Janaki, Kausik Murugan, Charan Tiruveedhi and Vincent Wu.
Steele was impressed by the unity of this year’s team, a symptom of the culture that has been built at South Forsyth over the past few years.
“In tennis, if you want to start, you have to beat a starter. It’s very individual. They have that kind of dynamic, but they learned to come together as a team and all about team unity,” Steele said. “A lot of the players who have been away from the team, who graduated last year or two, three years ago, during the summer or spring break will come out and still want to practice with the team. And they all kind of still stay in contact with each other, even though they’re in different colleges in different states.”
South Forsyth’s girls had four seniors on its team, including Morrison, Maddalen DeMars, Deniz Karaca and Vidhula Prasanna.
Morrison will continue playing tennis at Georgia College State and University in the fall. She’ll miss the team camaraderie but knows she’ll be back over the next couple of years to watch her younger sister play.
“It is really tough, because I think we all were building up to this,” Morrison said. “We kind of were hoping our senior season was when we were going to take it home. It’s such a great team, and we all get along. It’s such a close-knit group because we’ve been together for so long. I’ll just miss that, and especially the off-court part of it and just the friendships that I made.”