Abigail Woodring was perfectly content to leave her tennis career behind and focus on her musical aspirations as she’s about to head off to college.
Before she departs to attend John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Woodring – who played tennis at Greenwood – was convinced by faculty members to continue playing for JBU’s tennis squad.
She is now grateful for the chance to prolong her tennis career.
There’s someone else who is elated over the news. That would be her big brother, Woody Woodring, who also attends JBU and is on the school’s tennis team as well.
Abigail Woodring remarked that, yes, without a doubt, her brother made a big recruiting pitch for the two to become reunited again.
“He did, definitely,” Abigail Woodring said. “For a while, John Brown wasn’t even on my list. … Then, he thought I would like it, so he definitely recruited me 100 percent.
“Originally, I wasn’t going to play tennis at the school; I was just going to do music education and I figured that would be enough time-wise. … Then some of the music faculty were like, ‘It would be OK, you can play tennis.’ They kind of encouraged me to go ahead and try to be a part of something else also, something outside of the music department.”
Woody Woodring, who graduated from Greenwood two years ago and will be an incoming junior at JBU while majoring in both finance and accounting, originally wanted to let his younger sister make the decision as to where she wanted to attend college.
“Last summer, I basically was kind of leaving her alone, I was going to let her make her own decision and what-not,” Woody said.
But after talking to their mother, she wanted her son to convince his sister to join him at JBU.
“So I started my pitch. … Then within two weeks, she decided to come to JBU,” Woody said. “I am super excited to have her up there. … For holistic development as a person, I think JBU’s a great school, so I’m excited to have her there in that respect; I think even more so than the tennis stuff.
“Then with tennis, it’s going to be fun being on the same team again; we’ve kind of had a two-year hiatus here. I haven’t been really able to see her play much since I was in high school, so I’m excited to get to see her play again.”
Although Woody is the oldest of the two Woodring siblings, it was actually Abigail who first picked up a tennis racket.
Her brother tagged along when Abigail would take lessons, but Woody admitted being bored sitting in the car waiting for his sister to finish so he started taking up tennis, too.
Abigail remarked that, for the most part, the two never really played one another besides practice. Not because of the potential sibling rivalry, but the differences in the tennis balls.
“When I first started playing, I was playing with this foam thing that was a lot bigger than a tennis ball and he was playing with a low-compression ball, so we would be in different age groups playing with different types of balls,” Abigail said. “But then eventually we both got up into the yellow ball, just so he and I could both be part of the same clinics at the same time.
“He’s always been better than me, even from the beginning when I had been playing technically longer than him because he’s bigger and stronger. But I like playing against him on the court; he hits the ball hard. … He definitely challenges me, and he’s willing to go out and hit with me, so I appreciate that.”
In Abigail Woodring’s four seasons playing tennis at Greenwood, she was part of four consecutive conference team championships.
She made it to state in both doubles and singles play, and in the past two seasons finished as the conference singles runner-up behind her teammate, Olivia Gaston, who has signed to play at Ouachita Baptist University.
This past fall as a senior, Woodring made it to the 5A girls singles semifinals, which also earned her All-State honors.
But Abigail still vividly remembers her freshman season, when she was disappointed over not making it to state as a singles player despite the Lady Bulldogs winning the conference title.
That setback, though, helped spurred her on to improve her game not only physically but mentally.
“I improved a lot when it comes to just my game; like physically, I improved a lot,” Woodring said. “But I also think I improved from more of like a mental point of view out on the court, because I came in as a freshman thinking, I’ve played tennis for years and I’m all that, and it was kind of a slap in the face when I didn’t get to go to state and I was super-upset.
“Looking back, I laugh about it but I learned how to take losses and keep a hold of myself better on the court and to hold my head high even when it doesn’t seem like I should.”
Woodring’s game is more suited to a finesse style, and she uses the word “pretty” to describe her on-court play.
“I would just say specifically strokes and technique (are my strengths),” she said. “When I play, I play pretty tennis, if that makes sense.
“That’s a good thing, but sometimes it can be a bad thing, because sometimes you have to be a little scrappy and so I’ve struggled with that, but I’ve gotten better at it. But I have a pretty game, just like pretty strokes, good strokes.”
Woodring’s strokes continue to make a favorable impression on her former coach at Greenwood, Ken Hamilton.
“Abigail is a very steady and heady player,” Hamilton said. “A good mover with strokes that are as good as anyone who has come through the Greenwood program in my 25 years working with the players.”
Woodring, who possessed a 4.0 grade-point average in high school, is just as versatile away from the tennis court.
She can play a variety of musical instruments and can also sing. She has performed in both the band and choir, and has been in musical theater while attending high school.
Woodring played the violin while in grade school. In middle school, she played French horn in the band. Then when she went to high school, she played a brass instrument known as the mellophone.
But of all the instruments Woodring has played over the years, she maintains her favorite to play isn’t one she carries around with her. It’s actually within her instead.
“I would choose my voice as my favorite instrument, because you can sing wherever you are,” Woodring said. “There’s all sorts and different types and styles of singing, and that’s really cool to me how there’s so many different ways to do it.
“My voice; it’s with me all the time, and you don’t have to lug it around.”
Woodring has sung in the youth choir in her church from a very young age. She also took up theater as a sophomore and performed in three musicals, “Beauty and the Beast,” “Tarzan” and “Matilda,” which was during her senior year.
“Her only drawback is that she is so well-rounded she was not able to spend as much time on her game to raise it to the next level,” Hamilton said. “Her best tennis, like Woody, is ahead of her. I am so glad she is going to play for JBU.”
So this summer, Woodring isn’t letting the coronavirus pandemic keeping her away from being on the court in preparation to continue playing tennis in college.
“Tennis is like one of the safest sports to play and social distance, so it hasn’t been that hard to get out and play; it’s just been some clinics that I would normally do in the summer or would be a part of normally that have been canceled because there’s a large number of kids on the court at the same time,” Woodring said.
“But I’ve been able to play where there’s two to four people on the court and then just calling up friends and hitting. It’s been not that bad at all.”