Peachtree Ridge's Abby Owens; Photo Illustration by Nicole Puckett and Brendan Sullivan
On many high school tennis teams in Gwinnett County, and certainly throughout Georgia, Abby Owens could have easily been her team's top-line singles player throughout her career.
After all, the Peachtree Ridge senior comes into her final season of high school tennis with a consensus top-five junior ranking in the state, as well as a top-15 ranking in the Southeast region.
But as loaded as the Lions squad has been in each of her three previous varsity seasons, she's pretty much had to wait her turn.
Now, after being relegated to lower singles lines or even playing doubles behind such standouts as Mary Jeremiah and two-time Daily Post Girls Player of the Year Jessica Northcutt, Owens' time has come at last.
"She has (had to wait her turn)," Peachtree Ridge coach Chrissie Bolt said. "She's done it gracefully. Even with how talented she is, I've never had an issue. There's no diva attitude, even though she has a diva game. I've been lucky with all my athletes who have the awesome game do not have the (bad) attitudes.
Attitude has never been an issue for Owens, who has managed to check her ego at the door and has produced on the court at no matter what line she has played throughout her career.
In fact, she says playing at lower lines, and playing doubles with Ali Mills during her sophomore season two years ago, has actually been kind of therapeutic for her.
"It hasn't really been hard because I know (Jeremiah and Northcutt) are both really good players," Owens said. "So, I really didn't mind playing (behind) them. I just want what's best for the team.
"During my freshman year and going into sophomore year, I kind of got burnt out (with tennis). So, I wasn't really at the top of my game. ... I'd been playing tournaments since I was 8 or 9 (years old). So, it got tough. (High school tennis) definitely did help with that. We don't get to play on teams very often in junior tennis. It's great to be able to play on a team. It helps make it more fun."
The results bear out just how valuable Owens has been to the Lions as she's been named to the Daily Post's All-County team each of her first three high school seasons (first team last year and second team the previous two).
In that time, she has posted a 31-3 record while playing No. 3 singles as a freshman and No. 2 singles, with occasional appearances at the No. 1 spot last year, as well as a 16-1 mark at No. 1 singles with Mills as a sophomore.
And as Owens was recharging her emotional and physical batteries over that time, Bolt has noticed her game evolving to the dominant force she's become.
"She's just a power (player)," Bolt said. "It's funny because as a freshman, that's all she had. Well, not all, but ... she was a freshman. She wouldn't always set up the smartest points. Last year, the biggest (improvement) I noticed in her was her movement. It just elevated her game to a completely different level.
"I know she really started focusing on her fitness and working out with a (personal) trainer. It really took her game to the next level."
The elevation of her game to a higher level has helped assure that Owens will take her game to the next level of team tennis.
She has verbally committed to play collegiately at LSU, where she will be reunited with former Peachtree Ridge teammate Jeremiah, who began playing for the Tigers after transferring from Oklahoma State last summer.
Jeremiah's presence is a welcome bonus that Owens believes will help her transition to college life.
And she also believes her commitment will have an equally relaxing effect on her game during her senior season as the Lions attempt to take the next step towards a Class AAAAAA state championship after falling one step short in Class AAAAA a year ago.
"All the pressure's off," Owens said. "It's a lot easier to play when there's not so much pressure like there was last summer. I'm just looking forward to a fun, successful (senior) season."