High School Sports

BC's Morrow's greatest strength wasn't measured in wins

It's called gamesmanship. Like shuffling your shoes against the concrete so your opponent's overhead smash is a bit tougher.

Or bending down after a point and untying a shoelace so you can get a quick break. Maybe giving yourself the benefit of the doubt on that close line call.

These things aren't overtly against the rules of tennis, but then again, they don't really instill honor in a sport where competitors are still referred to as ladies and gentlemen.

Enter Anna Morrow.

Sometime during the Buhach Colony senior's 9-3 singles campaign, she developed a bit of a reputation among Central California Conference coaches.

Not because of gamesmanship.

Quite the contrary.

"Some of the coaches would often comment on what a nice game Anna had," said John McKim, Morrow's coach at Buhach since her days as a freshman doubles player. "But more than anything they saw her as a sportsman.

"She was always positive. She rarely questioned line calls and never showed outward signs of disappointment."

So it came as no surprise to McKim that coaches voted Morrow the winner of the conference's sportsmanship award at season's end.

Morrow's only regular season losses came at the hands of two players -- Pitman's Heather Cotter and Los Banos' Sara Hedrick -- who played for the CCC singles title.

But it's for the way she carried herself -- regardless of outcome -- that Morrow is the Sun-Star's Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

Not bad for someone who started out none too fond of the sport.

"I used to hate tennis when I was younger," said Morrow, who in sixth grade began to hit with her parents. "The first few times I played, I was really bad. But I worked at it."

In more ways than one.

Morrow's baseline ground stroke game was successful due to her superb footwork, something McKim attributes to Morrow's "first love" -- ballet.

Morrow has been dancing since the age of 3, enjoying jazz and modern dance and, in turn, helping her to get into better court position and hit her crushing backhand.

"It's her strength," McKim said of the two-handed forehand. "She probably has the best stroke of any of the players I've coached in seven years here."

Morrow was Buhach's No. 1 player this year and has progressed every season.

One-half of a Valley Oak League doubles championship team as a freshman, Morrow played No. 3 singles her sophomore season, helping Buhach win a VOL title.

She followed that up with a 12-0 conference record in 2006 as Buhach's No. 2.

When competition sometimes causes many athletes to employ a win-at-all-costs mindset, Morrow offers a breath of fresh air.

She approaches matches knowing she'll either win or lose, and she's OK with both outcomes, as long as she has fun.

Morrow best describes that attitude when recounting afternoon practices at Buhach.

"It's just really laid back. Everyone knows that (tennis) is just a game," Morrow explains. "There's no pressure. We just let loose and have a lot of fun."

It's called sportsmanship.

Herb Smart is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at hsmart@mercedsun-star.com or via phone at 385-2458.