LOGANVILLE -- Despite being home-schooled the past two years, Alex Clay knew what high school academics and athletics were both like.
After all, she had experienced both as a freshman at Grayson High School three years ago.
And she missed them.
"I always enjoyed playing high school tennis. I loved being part of a team. I loved being part of that atmosphere," Clay said. "I missed going to all the football games and hanging out with my friends all the time. I just wanted to be a normal high school student again."
Clay managed to have a more conventional senior year at Grayson than she had while focusing on year-round USTA tournament play the previous two school years.
However, anybody who faced her or Grayson during the high school tennis season this spring quickly discovered she was more than just a normal high school student.
She completed an undefeated career by winning all 18 of her matches as the Rams' No. 1 singles player.
More importantly, she was a catalyst for Grayson's (19-1) first Region 8-AAAAA championship and a trip to the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
"I knew fairly well she would make the team better," Grayson coach Scott Wiley said of the Daily Post's Girls Tennis Player of the Year. "And I knew we had the pieces to be successful, but it worked out even better than I thought it would.
"The thing that sticks out in my mind is ... I remembered how gifted she was, but she did everything I asked her to do, and did it happily."
Clay was very happy to be back at Grayson, even though she very much enjoyed everything she was able to accomplish in her two years away from public school. That included her No. 8 USTA Georgia state ranking in the Girls 18 and under division, plus earning a tennis scholarship to the University of Alabama.
But she says she will cherish the memories of this past season the most.
"It was great. I'm glad I came back," said Clay, who went 16-0 as Grayson's No. 2 player as a freshman before being home-schooled her sophomore and junior years. "I couldn't have asked for a better senior season. Our team had a great season. ... I met a lot of new friends ... and I became really close with all of them. It was nice to experience that as a team."
Clay blended right in with her teammates and was the final piece to a puzzle that included singles player Courtney Williams and Sharon Kim and doubles teams Caitlin Smith and Holly Craig and Alexis Lee and Kristi Cheesman in rolling to the region title.
"We needed her to be a part of the team and come to practice every day," Wiley said. "And she made sacrifices with her private lessons and practices. She already had a couple of good friends on the team, and she really helped bring things together."
Clay will now try to bring the next part of her life together when she goes off to Alabama.
While she will work to continue her success with the Crimson Tide, and has not ruled out one day pursuing a professional career, she also has her eye on a potential career in the business side of athletics.
"Education has always been very important to me," said Clay, who finished high school with a 3.7 grade point average. "I'm planning on studying business management (at Alabama). I think I'd like to be a rep for a company like adidas or Nike or something like that. I think that would be really cool.
"I'm just excited I had the opportunity to come back. It's been a joy to come back and meet all these new people and spend my time with these great girls and guys. I couldn't have asked for anything better."