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Seniors 2020: North Hall's Anna Montgomery owned rare distinction for success on the tennis court
Anna Montgomery
North Hall's Anna Montgomery prepares to serves during a match in Gainesville. Photo by John Hamilton.

Anna Montgomery was a unicorn for the North Hall tennis program.

From the time she stepped on the court as a freshman, she held the No. 1 singles spot and never let it go from 2017-2020. North Hall coach Bob Woodworth, coach of the boys and girls teams, said Montgomery is the first player in his 18 years of coaching to hold such a distinction.

Along the way, she was part of some of the best North Hall girls tennis programs in school history, twice making the Class 3A state semifinals and a two-time 7-3A champion.

“It was a dream come true to be able to coach Anna,” Woodworth said. “She already knew the game of tennis so well when she got to high school and continued to get better.

“But Anna’s also a very kind-hearted person who is friends with everyone she meets.”

Her senior season ended abruptly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a region match against Greater Atlanta Christian on March 12.

Montgomery said that playing tennis was about much more than being an athlete. It’s where she learned lessons that will carry into the rest of her life.

“Those were my best friends on the tennis team,” Montgomery said.

In the fall, Montgomery will attend the University of Georgia and continue playing on the club tennis program. Her goal is to major in advertising, including time to study abroad in France and then in other major US cities, like Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Yet, the mark Montgomery made on the tennis program at North Hall will last for years and years to come.

Her talent was the blend of two private coaches with very different styles. When Anna picked up the racket at age 7, she was constantly praised by her first coach Betsy Kiser.

“Betsy would cheer me on for anything I did right,” Montgomery said.

However, Kiser moved to Texas when Montgomery was still in junior high.

She had to find a new instructor.

In eighth grade, Montgomery started working with an equally-respected coach, Murry Lokasundaram, who is much more animated and doesn’t mind pointing out your flaws.

Despite not always enjoying his style of coaching, she now appreciates the fact that Lokasundaram would constantly keep her on her toes.

“I wouldn’t be where I am as a player without both of them as coaches,” Montgomery said.

Before getting into high school, Montgomery said she was a bit of a wallflower on the tennis court who was afraid to speak up or contest a point. Once she got to North Hall, she grew in confidence, winning many matches against other elite talents.

Montgomery showed the varsity stage was not too big in the 2017 state quarterfinals against Brantley County in Macon. She rallied back from three deciding match points to eventually win, sending the Lady Trojans into the state semifinals with a 3-1 win.

With every point, she remembers looking over to see her teammates cheering her on. It was a battle to the very end. Anna had to earn every point against her Brantley County opponent, who was a senior.

“That was an amazing moment for our team,” Montgomery said.

Two years later, North Hall would again beat Brantley County for another trip to the state semifinals.

Montgomery’s best individual battles during her career came against Greater Atlanta Christian’s Erin Hoover, a mirror in many ways. Both were playing No. 1 singles as freshmen in 2017 and would go head-to-head seven times over the next four years.

North Hall’s top player would win four matches against Hoover, lost twice and had one match not finish with the game complete.

Anna remembers a thrilling three-set battle against Hoover her freshman year. Their meeting as sophomores didn’t finish. In 2019, Montgomery and Hoover split a pair of hotly-contested matches with both holding control at different points.

Woodworth said that Montgomery only had one kink in her armor: she would consistently lose that first set.

She agreed with that take.

The reason Montgomery could almost always dig out of a hole was her mental edge, constantly winning mind games against her opponent, Woodworth said.

“She would lose that first set, sometimes badly, but always found a way to figure it out,” Woodworth said.

Montgomery said it calmed her nerves to have coaches who didn’t worry when she got down in a match.

“Yeah, I had a tendency to dig myself a hole, but if I lost the first set, I thought of it like a cushion set,” Montgomery said.

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