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Tennis rivalry good-natured, fiercely competitive

Two girls of equal talent and determination battled for a victory on the courts. Sarah Sherriffs, ’02, of Fowler, and Michelle Smith, ’04, of FC, played the match of a lifetime, and after the dust had cleared, Smith emerged the victor, 8-6, on Oct 9. However, Sherriffs was complimentary in defeat.

“I think my game against Michelle Smith on Oct. 9 went well,” Sherriffs said. “I really enjoy playing her because I get a challenge. She’s one of the best players in the league. You play up to good players, so my level of play always goes up when I play Michelle.”

That was not the first time Sherriffs and Smith have played each other. On the contrary, it was only a small part of a continuing, yet good-natured, rivalry. At last year’s FC/Fowler tennis match, Sherriffs beat Smith in a three-set match, which lasted four long hours.

This victory gave Sherriffs the number one singles spot in the West Sierra League (WSL). Later on, in the league tournament, Smith beat Sherrifs, which gave Smith the number one seed in the tournament.

“It’s frustrating to play Sara Sherriffs because she’s really quick, and she hits everything back,” Smith said. “But still, I always have a good time playing against her. She’s a challenging opponent.”

Both Sherriffs and Smith are extremely focused in their games, which accounts for the length and intensity of them. Balls that are seemingly impossible to reach are no challenge for either of them, and are returned with grace and with deadly accuracy.

“Sara Sherriffs plays the same type of tennis as Michelle Smith,” George Freeman, the FC women’s tennis coach, said. “They are both very consistent and are able to cover the court well.”

But tennis is not the only aspect of either Sherriffs’ or Smith’s lives in which they excel.

Sherriffs has a large range of interests and activities. She is an avid soccer player and despite all the other sports she plays, she cites soccer as her favorite sport. She also runs hurdles, the 400 meters and the 4×4 relay for her Fowler’s track team.

Another one of Sherriffs’ many positions, and definitely her most surprising, is that of kicker for the varsity Fowler football team. Spotted by the Fowler football coach at soccer practice as she was kicking soccer balls, he decided to enlist her help.

“The boys’ varsity football coach said to me, ?Hey, our kicker is transferring. Do you want to try out?’. At first, I thought he was joking, so I kept saying no. But I finally realized that he was serious, and I said, ?Sure,’. “It’s a great job. I love it.”

Earlier this football season, Sherriffs kicked the winning points as Fowler defeated FC, 16-14, in football this season on Sept. 7.

Sherriffs is also involved in many activities off the playing field. Among other things, she takes AP calculus, is involved in the Science Olympiad, and volunteers at Valley Children’s Hospital. She attends the Presbyterian Church in Fowler and is involved with the youth group there.

“I don’t find it a challenge to live my faith on a public school campus,” Sherriffs said. Sometimes it can be frustrating though, when you try and share the Message, and people are closed off to it.”

Once she graduates from high school, Sherriffs would like to attend UC Davis, and major in either psychology or physical therapy.

Smith has much in common with Sherriffs. She plays an array of sports, including tennis, soccer, softball and track. While a middle school student, Smith placed second in the Fresno Middle School Tennis Tournament. No Fresno Christian student had ever placed higher than third in this highly competitive tournament.

With such an auspicious beginning to her high school tennis career, it is no wonder that Smith has held the number one singles spot on the varsity tennis team for both her freshman and sophomore years.

However, the playing field is not the only place where Smith excels. Off the court and in the classroom, she is an honor role student many times over. She attends The Peoples Church, where she participates in the high school youth group.

Although Sherriffs is a senior this year, she and Smith will most likely meet one last time: in the league tournament. Expectations for this match are high.

Sherriffs and Smith next meet on the tennis courts in Fowler on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m. FC leads the WSL with an 8-0 record while Fowler is in second place.

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