Meredith Smith signs letter with East Carolina
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Meredith Smith has been the cornerstone of the Watauga girls' tennis program for the past four seasons.
It only seemed like a matter of time that she would move on to play college tennis. That time was Tuesday when she signed a letter of intent to play at East Carolina.
Smith finished her prep career at Watauga with an overall record of 60-10 in singles, 38-6 in doubles. She is a three-time Northwestern Conference Player of the Year and was all-region all four of her seasons at Watauga.
Smith was all-state her freshman and junior seasons, and has held USTA ranking in the Top 30 for the past four years.
She said she will major in graphic design when she attends ECU, which is located in Greenville, and will play in the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
"I really liked the school and liked that they had the major I wanted," Smith said. "We went and toured there and it was really great. The tennis team was like one big family and I really liked that."
Smith's tennis skills rely on a powerful serve and ground strokes, according to Watauga coach Beth Watts.
"Meredith is a very strong player," Watts said. "She shoots from the baseline. She's able to shoot aces regularly and she's a very strong player who can give her opponents some very strong competition."
Smith is also strong academically. She carried a 4.10-weighted GPA and is a member of both the National Honor Society and the Beta Club.
"It's very good that they have good academics," Smith said. "I can get a good education and that's what I'm there for."
Watts added that having Smith play No. 1 singles helped get the Pioneers off to a good start in team matches. Smith was Watauga's No. 1-seeded player the past three seasons, which leaves a hole in the Pioneers' lineup when she leaves for college.
"We need that first win and she's always ready and set to make sure we were getting it," Watts said. "We will miss her next year. It's going to shake the team a little bit, but I think we can come back and play really well."
Both Smith and Watts hope that Smith's signing will open the eyes of the tennis community off the mountain and have them look at the potential of Watauga's program.
"It's huge for us to say that we've got a girl who just signed with a D-I school and she's going to be playing there next year," Watts said. "It's huge for our program because it's not something that happens a whole lot."
Smith joins an elite group of former Pioneers. Two former No. 1 seeded players have played college tennis. Anna Lee Evans, who earned a scholarship to College of Charleston, won a state championship in her senior year at Watauga in 2006.
Another former No. 1 seeded player from Watauga, Shannon Herndon, plays tennis at Johns Hopkins. A junior in college, Herndon was the No. 1 seed at Watauga from 2007-10.
"I'm really excited. It's really great to be able to go and play for a D-I school," Smith said. "I always wanted to play college tennis and it will be a lot of fun."