Academic All-Star: Southridge's Rachel Nicholls - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Academic All-Star: Southridge's Rachel Nicholls

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 For Southridge senior Rachel Nicholls, it took some time to get a racket in her hands.

"I didn't start until my sophomore year just because I kind of chickened out," Nicholls said.  "But my friends convinced me to try it, so I just did it for fun and ended up really liking it."

Once she started, she found a home behind the net.  A lot of it has to do with the closeness of the Suns' team.

"There's just a really a really strong unity at Southridge for tennis," she said. "We all want to come out and have fun, and I think that's what makes us so close."

Nicholls' coaches appreciate her leadership on the team.

"She really rallies the team in ways that are really fun to see," said head coach Chuck Hamaker-Teals.  "She's a spark of energy, and she's a really gifted kid."

What she shows on the court is matched in the classroom.  She holds a 4.0 GPA.

"Both tennis and school are important to me," she said. "I love them both so I think it's easier for me to find time for things that I really enjoy."

Next year Nicholls will attend the University of Utah where she plans to study engineering.  But in the meantime, she has one main focus for her senior season.

"My brother is finishing a mission for my church and he comes home and the next weekend would be regionals," said Nicholls.  "So he'd be able to see me play for the first time in two years."