SOUTHFIELD – Amidst a slew of football players sitting in front of an overflowing crowd of fellow students, faculty and family members at Wednesday’s signing day at Southfield High School was this petite young lady.
She didn’t fit in with the usual suspects. Traditionally a school that serves up a ton of football talent to colleges all across the state and the Midwest, on Wednesday the Bluejays saw a special tennis talent sign her letter of intent to play at the next level.
Lauren Hughes, a senior and three-year No. 1 singles player for Southfield, signed on to play for Wayne State University next year.
“They’ve got a great tennis team,” said Hughes, who will wrap up her high school career this spring. “The coach is wonderful. She’s amazing.”
Hughes was courted by more than 50 colleges before making her decision to become a Warrior. Of course, playing close to home played a part in the decision. But finding her educational fit was the deciding factor.
“Wayne State has a great pharmacy program and I want to go into pre-pharmacy. And that’s what it came down to,” Hughes said. “It came down to the major. I’m like, ‘Well, the tennis team is good, now do they have what I want to do in the long run?’ And they did.”
Hughes doesn’t see a tremendous amount of tough competition in high school play, and she has a relatively limited USTA schedule. Still, she’s ranked among the Top-20 seniors in the state, according to Tennisrecruiting.net.
“It’ll probably never happen again,” said Southfield tennis coach Ernie Tabor. “She is absolutely the best kid I’ve ever had. It’s very exciting. Most of the kids that play tennis don’t come to Southfield High. They go to other schools. It’s very exciting that she stuck it out here with us. She’s got a good support group, between her parents and other coaches. It’s pretty awesome that she’s actually signing and going to a Division 2 school to play tennis. That just does not happen. It does not happen from Southfield High. So I’m very excited.”
Hughes said she started playing at the age of nine and that all the hard work she’s put in over the years has led to this day.
“It’s so exciting,” Hughes said. “I’ve been through a lot (with tennis). It’s been an amazing experience. I’m kind of relieved, because I’ve made it. I’m here. Now I just have to work hard so I can get better and progress.”
Jason Schmitt covers high school tennis for The Oakland Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read his "In The Zone" blog here and follow our high school tennis coverage on Twitter @MIPrepZone.