Jenny Falcone was on a track to become the next Tracy Austin or Jennifer Capriati, two former women's tennis prodigies she met during her days on the U.S. Tennis Association junior amateur tournament circuit.
But then she decided she wanted to be a "normal" high school student.
"It's probably the best decision I've ever made," said Falcone, who recently finished her second and last season at Davidson Day. "I couldn't see myself being without the people who are in my life now."
The good tennis hasn't stopped, as the senior finished her high school career winning her second consecutive state singles championship and recently learned that she had been named the USTA's N.C. High School Female Tennis Player of the Year.
But she's also excelled off the court, serving as the vice president of the student body and earning a 3.9 grade point average as a member of the National Honor Society.
"I don't really like to be identified as just a tennis player," said Falcone. "I'm more particular about school than I am about tennis."
Her parents, who have encouraged her in both areas since she first picked up a tennis racket at age 5, agree.
"Tennis is what she does, not who she is," said her father, Doug Falcone.
Her mom, Sue, adds, "She 'flips the switch' very well."
Falcone, who has committed to continue both her studies and her tennis career at the College of Charleston next fall, came to Davidson Day after several years of being home-schooled by her mom.
"It was great when she was younger," said Sue. "But she reached the point where she wanted to pick her own goals, she wanted to be in a school situation where she could go to the prom and be in student government."
That's been a good decision for the Davidson Day tennis program, too. In two years, she never lost a match - or even a set - and finished with a two-year record of 252-7 in games. In fact she's been so dominant that in one match she lost only one point, recording one "golden set" and nearly getting another.
She defeated Allie Burgiss of Statesville Christian 6-0, 6-0 in the recent NCISAA 1A finals in Wilson for her second state singles championship and combined with teammate Allie Uszenski to win the doubles title.
"It was more of an honor to win for the school," said Falcone. "I didn't do it by myself."
This is a different mindset from the tournament circuit where Falcone started her competitive tennis career.
"You have friends, but it's not the same because you're playing against them all the time," she explained.
Falcone moved with her parents from Providence, R.I., where she was born, 13 years ago when Doug took a job in the Davidson area.
Tennis was part of Falcone's life early and she still works with River Run tennis pro Bruce Hawtin.
She has won the USTA Girls 18 national title at the age of 13, won a national USTA singles open championship and six national USTA doubles championships, along with numerous Southern Section titles.
This year Falcone is ranked among the Top 50 for the Class of 2010 by the Tennis Recruiting Network and has been one of the highest-ranked players in USTA juniors who's playing interscholastic tennis. She will receive the N.C. Tennis Player of the Year award on Jan. 29 at a ceremony in Pinehurst.
Falcone says she's looking forward to starting her college career for the Cougars, which play in the Southern Conference, where she'll encounter the Davidson Wildcats. She's not sure what tennis has in store for her after that.
"I really don't know," she said. "I just know that I knew that's where I wanted to go to school the first five minutes after I got there. I'm hoping I'll get a lot better."