COVINGTON, Ga. — With friends and family surrounding her, Eastside Eagles senior Abbey Grace Venham — who has not lost a single match in her high school tennis-playing career — made her post-graduation intentions known as she signed with Piedmont College.
With such a special day happening for the Eagles' outstanding tennis player, she could not be more happy to have the people she cherishes and loves the most by her side.
"It is so heartwarming and amazing and beautiful to see all my closest friends and family and coaches and just everybody out here supporting me," Venham said. "It's not just for my signing. All of these people here have been supporting me since I've been playing tennis. I wouldn't be able to sign this paper without the people here."
This decision came after careful research by Venham, and her mother said that despite other visits, she consistently kept finding herself drawn to Piedmont. Venham agreed and believes Piedmont will not only be a great fit athletically but also academically as she hopes to study public speaking in college.
"Piedmont is a wonderful school, and Trey Martin is the head coach there, and we get along really well, and I love the way that he runs his teams and practices," Venham said. "I went on a visit and met all the girls on the team, and they were all amazing and so nice and excited to have me, so I feel like it will be a really good spot for me."
Venham has been a remarkable talent for the Eagles and has been a leader for them in the early stages of her time on the team. Her playing career began at a very young age, and with the support of family and friends, she has worked to earn this opportunity to play at the next level.
Venham's mother, Angie Blair, and brother, Zachary Kimmel, could not be more proud of her and what she has accomplished, but knows her future is bright.
"This is just where it starts," said Kimmel. Blair added, "She can take this as far as she wants."
Venham returned the kind words to everyone that played a role in helping support her and guide her through her tennis career. Family seemed to be of the utmost importance for her, and she was could not even put to words how thankful she was for them.
"It's indescribable. I don't even have words. I literally wouldn't be anything without them," Venham said. "I could not do this on my own, and they have done so, so much for me."
Venham was also very grateful for her coaches over the past couple of years and made sure to voice her appreciation of the efforts of current Lady Eagles tennis coach, Lee Shepard, former Lady Eagles tennis coach, Angie Honey, and former boys Eagles tennis coach Nick Adzema.
Adzema and Shepard took the time to express just how proud they were of the Eagles remarkable senior and how promising her future can be.
"She is incredibly physically talented at this game, and she has the mind for it, but at the same time, she puts in so much work for it," said Shepard. "I'm really proud to see all her hard work pay off. I think it's really great and I'm really happy for her."
"Any time that one of your former athletes is signing for a pretty big college in the Georgia area, it's pretty outstanding," Adzema said. "I know she's going to be able to compete in the Atlanta area, and she's just going to get better and better."
It is no surprise that Venham competed in other individual tournaments in the early stages of career. However, the constant grind of those matches "burned out," Venham, which led to her stepping away from that type of play.
It was the teams at Eastside that Venham credits with reigniting the fire that she had for the sport, and she could not be more thankful for her teammates and coaches helping do that.
"I played super-duper competitively up until my freshman year, and then I burned out, and I was like, 'I don't want to play in college, and I just want to play for fun," Venham said. "Honestly, I kind of owe it to Eastside for showing me how much I love it. When I played competitively, it was just individual, but with Eastside, you have a whole team supporting you, and it's just you on the court, but you get to look over your shoulder, and all your teammates are there."
Venham still has her senior year of tennis in front of her, and she is hopeful that she will finish just as she started. With her tough collegiate decision out of the way, Venham hopes to focus fully on the season in front of her and continue to improve her game.
"I want to stay undefeated, if possible," said Venham. "I know that I've signed for Piedmont, so all the college stuff is done, but I'm not going to slack, and I'm not going to let up any this season."