The Ashley Hall tennis legacy lives on, even after the graduations from the all-girls school of the last three Lowcountry players of the year. Narni Summerall follows in the footsteps of 2008/2009 winner Jamie Harrell and 2010 recipient Patricia Kirkland quite smoothly.
"It feels great. Jamie and Patricia have been good role models. It's great to follow in their legacy," Summerall said of being selected as The Post and Courier's All-Lowcountry girls tennis player of the year.
She is joined on the first team by fellow repeaters Porter-Gaud senior Mi'Kola Cooper, Porter-Gaud junior Annie Hay and Colleton Prep senior Sarah McDonald. The team is rounded out by Wando junior Catherine Martin and Wando freshman Melanie Allen.
Kristin Fleming, who led Bishop England to the High School League's Class AA state title, and Brian Burke of SCISA Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud share the Lowcountry coach of the year award.
Just a junior, Summerall will have the opportunity next season to keep the Ashley Hall string going.
The Panthers failed in their quest for a fourth straight SCISA Class AAA state championship as Porter-Gaud defeated Ashley Hall in the state semifinals. Porter-Gaud had lost to the Panthers in the past two state finals. But Summerall, the top-ranked 18-and-under player in the state, had a sensational season.
After playing behind both Harrell and Kirkland as a freshman, and Kirkland as a sophomore, Summerall made the move up the ladder to No. 1 quite impressively. She posted a 15-1 record in singles, losing only a three-set match to Porter-Gaud's Cooper in the regular season. Summerall won all three of her other singles matches against Cooper this season.
"They were really close matches (against Cooper). It came down to a tiebreaker here or there in two or three of the matches," said Summerall, who has suffered only one loss in each of her first three seasons for the Panthers.
She believes much of her success this year is a result of her 2-3 hours of daily training at Creekside Tennis and Swim with former College of Charleston players Or Dekel and Omer Abramovich.
"I am working on a lot of tactical things like shot selection and things like that," she said. "I am stepping in more and taking balls as soon as possible."
Primarily a baseliner in previous seasons, Summerall has blossomed into a complete player capable of hitting big, and winning points quickly while maintaining her consistency.
"Getting to a lot of balls is my strength," said the 5-9 player, who is ranked 23rd in the South. "It's almost a luxury to be able to do both ... get to balls and have more power. I'm more in control of rallies now."
Unlike many high school players, Summerall has concentrated on tennis. And it's paid dividends as she considers a future in tennis after high school.
"A lot of people try three or four sports, and they don't reach their potential in one sport," she said. "I used to play volleyball in the sixth and seventh grades, but I quit them because of tennis."
She likes tennis because "you alone can determine if you win or you lose. It's a really fun game."