Will Fullett was cutting it close, but he was going to make it.
South Forsyth’s No. 1 singles player was in California for a national tournament in late March of last year, but after losing in that event, he was scheduled to get back to Georgia in time to help lead his team to the Region 5-7A title against Milton, a team the War Eagles beat easily during the regular season.
But his sense of relief didn’t last long. His flight back home was delayed, leaving Fullett monitoring everything from afar on his phone. Without its best player, South just barely fell in that region title matchup.
“I was texting everyone like, ‘How's it going? What's the score? How's everyone doing?’ And then when I heard I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I could have been there,’” Fullett said.
“I was really
bummed, because I knew if we beat Milton, then we'd have a little more
confidence going into the state playoffs. The team battled as hard as they
could without me.”
When Fullett returned, South, then the defending Class 7A state champion, again played deep into the state playoffs but ran into an inspired Brookwood team in the Elite Eight. The War Eagles just barely lost that matchup, with No. 3 singles determining the 3-2 outcome.
“We were obviously disappointed,” South boys coach Jason Steele said. “We felt like we didn’t give our best effort that day, and to be honest, we felt like Brookwood just wanted it more, and they inched us out. I think a little of it was because we won our first state title and we weren’t quite as hungry. That was the first time that we lost (with a full lineup).”
The War Eagles hope the motivation from both of those losses can help propel them back to the top of Class 7A this year, and with Fullett and other key players coming back, South looks to be in a position to do just that.
“The depth of our team is amazing and we have a pretty young team,” Fullett said. “I haven't seen this many good singles and doubles players on a team in a while, so I'm pretty excited to see how we do.”
Fullett, who signed with Wofford College earlier this year, will again top South’s singles lineup as its No. 1. He was the 2019 Forsyth County News Player of the Year, sporting an 18-1 record as a junior. As a senior captain, he feels like his role has only become larger.
“He gives us leadership and obviously great talent, but he also leads by example,” Steele said. “He’s a hard worker and he wants to win just as bad if not more than everybody else. If other guys aren’t playing like they should, he’ll let them know.”
Joing Fullett in a leadership role will be fellow captain and No. 1 doubles player Vincent Wu, who ended his junior year with an undefeated 17-0 record. The War Eagles are still trying to find him a partner that he can work well with, but he doesn’t need a partner to show his value off the court.
“He’s been a huge part of our team,” Steele said. “He’s like the fire of our team. He gives our team spirit. He gets them really excited.”
Rishil Kondapaneni (16-3 last year) will play behind Fullett in the No. 2 singles position, and the War Eagles have a lot of depth within the starting lineup that can contribute as well. South hasn’t had many chances to see the kind of team it has so far with the constant stream of rain, but the War Eagles are confident that with who they have, they can capture the major accomplishments they missed last season.
“We’ve only been able to play three matches to this point,” Steele said. “We’re 3-0 and we’re looking solid. It’s going to come down to us and maybe one or two other teams in the end for the state title, and we’re expecting it to be us.”