Not only did Oconee County tennis succeed on the courts, but its players succeeded in the classroom.

Victor Huang and Natalie Duffee graduated at the top of the class of 2023, being named the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Succeeding in both aspects of school had its challenges, but Huang and Duffee found ways to make the best of both worlds. Tennis was a way to take their mind off any academic challenges they faced.

​​”It was nice to get to talk to my friends and just just focus on something other than school,” Duffee said. “I could focus on getting better at something……it just provided, like, a nice shift of perspective.”

Balancing tests and studying with matches caused a few issues.

When the Warriors hosted their Elite Eight match in the state tournament, two players, including Huang, were still taking the AP Chemistry test when the match was supposed to start. The teammates went straight to the courts from the testing center.

“Iit was just really a frenzy. And we ended up winning that match,” Huang said. “It was obviously like a really stressful environment at that time just having to get out straight from the test and going straight in.”

Even with the hecticness of running between the classroom and the courts, the environment of Oconee County tennis was a way Huang and Duffee could destress. 

“At the end of the day, it is a team sport, like you have to win a certain amount of lines, and we're all cheering each other on so it's it's a really great environment for a high school student who's taking so many challenging classes to just be able to come out after school and play with your friends,” Huang said.

While neither graduate plans on playing tennis competitively, the sport taught them important life skills they will need in college.

For Duffee, time management was the biggest lesson she learned in her final year as a Warrior. Planning in advance was key for finding time outside of practice and study time.

“It really just taught me the importance of just planning stuff out like on paper and just writing everything down,” Duffee said.

Huang’s biggest takeaway was the importance of self-discipline.

“Being able to go out and practice, even when it's not required practice, even if it's just, like, doing a clinic, hitting with a private instructor or playing with our teammates on our own time, I mean, just being able to relay that to the college experience,” Huang said. “Obviously it's going to be a great step up, but I mean, having that discipline there is definitely going to help.”

Duffee will stay in the area to attend the University of Georgia and study English, while Huang intends on studying business at Georgia Tech.

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