Any time a freshman wins a Player of the Year award in any sport (only six players in BLITZ history in all sports combined), it typically means that player took their sport by surprise. This is most certainly the case for Chloe Smith of Banks County, who seemingly came out of nowhere to be the very best in our coverage area.
Smith immediately took the top spot at #1 singles for Banks County, who was coming off a historic 2017 season that saw it advance to the Sweet 16. No one outside Banks County probably saw a season like 2018 coming. What followed was a freshman-led Lady Leopards who racked up 17 wins (only three losses) and won the Region 8-AA title easily.
Smith was 15-5 overall in leading the girls to the Class 2A Quarterfinals (Elite 8), where they eventually fell to Screven County. Thanks in large part to Coach Jim McKinney’s freshman phenom, the Lady Leopards were the #5-ranked team in the state.
Our panel of 18 voters, made up of media reporters/broadcasters, former BLITZ players, former coaches and a couple of fans, submitted their Heisman-style ballots for the three finalists for the award:
HISTORY OF TENNIS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Smith is the first Banks County player to win the girls award and ends a three-year streak for Rabun County. She is the only freshman to ever win the award, either for girls or boys.
2018 – Chloe Smith – Banks County FR #1 Singles
2017 – Hallie Reeves – Rabun County SR #1 Singles
2016 – Savanna Scott – Rabun County JR #2 Singles
2015 – Savanna Scott – Rabun County SO #2 Singles
2014 – Brittany Stewart – Lumpkin County SR #1 Singles
2013 – Brittany Stewart – Lumpkin County JR #1 Singles
2012 – Kayla Olin & Eryn Cochran – Towns County JR/SO #1 Doubles
2011 – Ginny Rhoades – Towns County SR #2 Singles
2010 – Abby Brown & Claire Stovall – Habersham Central SRs #1 Doubles
LOOKING AHEAD – THE NEXT FAVORITE(S)
No doubt Smith is the favorite already heading into next year, but right on her heels is second-place finishing in voting this time around, Lumpkin rising senior Izzy Kinard. Those two are a force. Others to keep an eye on include other finalist, rising sophomore Madison Rogers (Stephens County). In fact, all three finalists will return in 2019, as well as nearly all of the nominees (Kilee Thomas & Kyla Quiles/Habersham; Abbey Haymond/Dawson; etc.)