This past weekend, Franklin High School tennis player Anni Neiss travelled to Raleigh to compete at the State Championship where she made it to the semi-finals before losing out to the eventual State Champion Cassidy Shell of Bandys High School.
“I think she competed really well,” said head coach Heather Bell. “She played a great match against Shell which is not reflected in the score. Many of the games were close and Anni just happened to end up short on more of them than not.”
According to Bell, Neiss went further than any other FHS tennis player ever has in the tournament. She had an unbelievable season going undefeated in the regular season and posting a 18-0 overall record with a 16-0 conference record.
“Overall, I think this was a great experience for her and should give her a lot of confidence in her tennis ability moving forward,” she said.
On Oct. 10, Neiss competed at the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference 2-A tennis tournament where she didn't lose a single set, winning the tournament. After that, she played in the Regional Tournament that took place at Gardner Webb University where she won the first two games she played in dominant fashion before eventually losing in the semi-finals to Shell who eventually won that tournament as well.
“Anni is likely the best female tennis player to come through Franklin,” said Bell. “She is by far one of the most entertaining players to watch compete in the sport.”
Neiss is a German exchange student so her time playing for the FHS tennis team may be short lived, but Bell has appreciated her contribution to her first season as the girls' head coach.
“I'll be sad that she will not be joining us next season,” said Bell. “I will miss her as well as the other seniors like Katrina Harris, Ivonne Rios and Shannon Esterwood, but the team will move on and new stars will have an opportunity to rise.”
For Bell, the thing that trumps winning matches and posting winning seasons is the bond she develops with her team.
“Coaching is about a few things, not just a game, match or season, but it's about growing as a functioning team and even beyond that, growing individual relationships with these girls,” she said.
Though the girls' tennis season has come to a close, Bell can be proud about her first season at the helm while looking forward to the possibilities of next season.
“I had a great opportunity to spend extra time with Neiss as we traveled to Regionals and State and I will cherish the excitement and joy of those experiences but there is so much more to look forward to,” said Bell. “Some things which involve her like her continuing to play tennis here outside of 'the team' or helping her with the possibility of playing tennis for a university, but also things that do not involve her, like the future of the FHS women's tennis team and having several Freshman with great promise and ability in the sport. Overall, even as Franklin tennis loses Neiss this year, I am optimistic for what is to come.”