HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: E’town’s Newsome earns USTA scholarship

Elizabethtown’s Anastasia Newsome plays a shot during the Gerald Printing 5th Region Tournament last season at the Freeman Lake Tennis Complex.

It’s no secret college can be expensive. Costs of tuition, room and board and books all add up.

Elizabethtown High School tennis’s Anastasia Newsome will get some help with meeting these expenses when she starts at the University of Louisville this fall. In fact, the assistance will come from the sport she’s played competitively for almost a decade.

Newsome recently was named a recipient of the inaugural United States Tennis Association Southern Division’s Mildred F. Southern Academic Excellence award.

“It’s a huge, huge honor,” Newsome said. “The background of the woman they named it after, she’s done so many great things and so just to even have her name associated with that, it’s just a really big honor.”

Southern was a former USTA Southern division president and North Carolina Tennis Association president. Southern won five USTA championships and is a member of the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Southern passed away on Oct. 22, 2019 at age 98.

“She was a really great tennis player. She did a lot of volunteer work,” Newsome said of Southern. “She just overall was really involved in her community and she had a lot of great characteristics and was really a great role model.”

Newsome first heard about the opportunity from Eliza­beth­town tennis coach Karen Henson. She initially was unsure if she would apply. After the application deadline was extended, Newsome decided to give it a try and ultimately was selected.

The award itself will provide Newsome with $1,000 ahead of her freshman year.

“They ended up extending the date and I was like ‘okay well I’m not really doing anything, I might as well apply,” Newsome said. “So I just filled out the application and crossed my fingers and hoped that I got it.”

Once she gets to Louisville, Newsome plans to major in biology. Her focus within this major will be to start on the pre-med track.

Newsome has played high school level tennis since she was in fifth grade. She started off playing for John Hardin’s varsity team that year in doubles matches.

Newsome later moved to the Elizabethtown district, where she said she initially was unsure if she would be able to play varsity early because of the skill the team’s skill. She ultimately was able to play varsity despite her young age.

She attributed being able to play varsity tennis so early on to the support she received from her family and coaches. Learning from older high school aged players also was key to her development.

“I would have not been able to do it without my parents, my family, my coaches especially,” Newsome said. “Because being younger than the other kids, there are some challenges with that. I felt like I matured a little bit more quickly than some students because I was surrounded by that.”

Some of this advice from high school-aged included not being intimidated by older players. While the age difference was something that initially intimidated Newsome, her teammates helped her reverse these concerns.

“They were always like ‘listen, they’re probably more intimidated by you because they don’t want to get their butt kicked by a young child. Just go out there and have a good time. If you lose, you have so many years ahead of you. Don’t worry about it,’” Newsome said. “Of course I wished I cherished that more because of the whole COVID situation and not having a senior year, but I had a pretty good seven or eight years.”

Like all spring athletes across the country, the loss of the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic was a devastating blow for Newsome. The fact it was going to be her final high school season only made the feeling worse.

Newsome was coming off a successful junior season in which she finished runner-up in the 5th Region Tournament and made it to the second round of the state tournament.

“I definitely cried a lot. It was kind of devastating,” Newsome said. “I was really looking forward to this year and I even really started training harder, like this is gonna be it.”

First there was the disappointment of the season’s postponement and eventual cancelation. This was followed by reflection on what she had achieved and the experiences she had gotten through the sport.

“It took me a little while to realize ‘Hey, I’ve had so many great memories. I got a chance that some students or athletes will never get and I just need to not take that for granted and keep that close to my heart’”, Newsome said. “Any senior out there, doesn’t matter if you’re a college senior or high school senior, my heart really went out to them because it was pretty rough. We look forward to that moment.”

Newsome initially had looked into joining the Louis­ville women’s team as a walk-on. Now, she will be joining the Cardinals’ cross-country team instead. A long-time runner, Newsome has been active in the sport since she was younger, with only a break for a couple of years because of what she described as loss of passion for it.

“These past couple of months, I don’t know if it’s just COVID and running more consistently, I just developed that passion for it again and I thought ‘if I’m running all these miles and I really am starting to enjoy it like I used to and I’ve always been competitive in the sport, let me just contact the U of L cross-country coach,” Newsome said. “I listed through my past accomplishments and told him where I was at and he said ‘Yeah sure, we’d love to have you grow and be a part of our program.’”

While cross-country will be her primary sport, Newsome plans to stay involved in tennis. This could potentially look like playing for the club team at Louisville or just staying active in league play.

“Tennis, it’s such a great sport because you can always continue to play it. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing club for the college or just being a part of the women’s league that meets up every week,” Newsome said. “But yeah, I want to continue to play tennis. I definitely fell in love with the sport. It’s just a matter of can I not manage my time because being a bio major and then with cross-country and running and things like that, I really have to focus on time management. But yeah hopefully whenever I have free time I’ll definitely be at the court.”

Matt Tyson can be reached at 270-505-1754 or mtyson@thenewsenterprise.com.

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