Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Allison Fernandez became GGC's first two-sport athlete this year as a soccer and tennis player for the Grizzlies. A Central Gwinnett graduate, Fernandez had a 3.43 GPA and earned the Grizzly Athletics Student-Athlete Service Award this year.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Allison Fernandez raised her hand and became the first two-sport athlete in Georgia Gwinnett College history.
Coming off a successful inaugural soccer season, Fernandez was back at practice in January.
Women's head coach Domenic Martelli asked if anyone on the team played tennis.
Fernandez had. For three years at Central Gwinnett.
She raised her hand and Martelli told her to go talk to Chase Hodges, the head tennis coach.
"I was like, 'Are you being serious?'" Fernandez said. "I could have sworn it was a joke."
It wasn't. Hodges' roster was hobbled by injuries and a few overseas commitments that weren't able to come to Gwinnett for various reasons.
Even meeting with Hodges, Fernandez had concerns about playing. One of her biggest concerns was not having as much time to work.
"I still didn't know because I was kind of low on money," said Fernandez, who has a job during the school year and two this summer. "So they helped me out a lot with that. I said, 'OK, I guess it starts for me here.'"
The transition from soccer to tennis, a sport she hadn't played in nearly two years, wasn't easy.
"College is a lot more competitive than high school," Fernandez said. "High school was more for fun.
"It's just a huge switch from soccer to tennis. It was a lot harder. It took me a while to get back (to form). Coach (Lauren) Meier got on me a couple of times. She was tough, but she got me going back on the ball again."
Fernandez played all eight matches for the Grizzlies and was an integral part of a team that won five times in its first season of competition.
All the coaches were flexible with her schedules during the spring season, allowing Fernandez to balance two sports, school and work.
"Allison is one of the hardest-working student-athletes I have ever been around," Martelli said. "She works, studies, trains on her own and plays for two highly competitive teams. She is a young person with very mature leadership qualities that not only help our team, but will benefit her throughout her career."
Her arrival on campus was nearly as quick as her joining the tennis team.
Fernandez graduated from Central in 2011 and went to play for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.
"I had a couple colleges look at me, but then they offered more than the rest of them," she said.
After playing there as a freshman, Fernandez was in Gwinnett for the summer.
"One of my friends from ABAC said she was coming here and she was going to be on the team," she said. "I thought that would be nice, to be back home. So I started talking to Dom."
Or rather, she left him a bunch of messages.
"I kept on trying to call him and he finally got in touch," Fernandez said. "I think he was in Italy at the time so we had to wait for him to get back.
"I was actually really nervous to come to the tryout. But I got here and I knew a couple of the girls so it kind of relieved a little bit of stress."
Martelli liked the way she played and immediately started the paperwork. That was last July, barely three weeks before school started.
"It happened a lot faster than I intended," Fernandez said. "It was a lot (to do). The biggest problem was telling my coach I wasn't coming back to ABAC."
Martelli helped make sure the transfer to GGC went as smoothly as possible. Fernandez, who had a 3.43 GPA last year, registered for classes without issue and got started on the team's workout schedule.
She played 15 games and the team won a surprising 10 of those as a first-year program.
"It was pretty exciting that we did as well as we did," Fernandez said. "To be honest, I didn't expect that. But we played our hearts out."
She's looking forward to her junior year with the teams now eligible for postseason competition.
Being a two-sport athlete in college is a rare opportunity and doesn't go unappreciated by Fernandez. Nor does GGC, a college growing by leaps and bounds in Lawrenceville.
If the Grizzlies had been playing sports when Fernandez graduated from Central, she might not have even ended up at ABAC.
"I probably would have looked at this place first," she said. "When I grew up, this college really wasn't a whole lot. It was just a college you drove by. Now it's a college that you stop at."It's a great feeling to be a part of this program."