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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Hall Honor Another Win For Short

8 days ago
John Frierson
Photo: UGA Athletics

Lisa Spain Short is as competitive as ever. She likes being good at whatever she does. She likes beating her competitors. She likes being number one.

This was true when she was a young girl growing up in Moultrie, Ga. This was true when she arrived on campus as a Georgia women's tennis freshman, in the fall of 1980. This also was true as a senior when she was the best player in the country and captured the program's first NCAA singles championship, on the same day, May 20, 1984, that Mikael Pernfors won the men's program's first NCAA singles title.

A lot of years later, no need to count, that competitive nature came out back in the spring when Short found out she'd been elected into the ITA Women's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. The ITA announced its new Hall of Fame class on Tuesday, and the induction ceremony will be held next year.

"It's absolutely fantastic, and it's so well deserved," Georgia women's tennis coach Jeff Wallace said. "She had an amazing career and was an amazing player here at Georgia."

For all of the great, great achievements of the Georgia women's tennis program over the years - the team and individual national championships, the dozens of All-Americans - Short is the Bulldogs' first player elected into the Hall of Fame. She for sure won't be the last, but Short, who also was the program's first All-American, does like the fact that she's the first.

"It was probably from being a girl growing up in the '60s and '70s," Short said of her competitive nature. "I was a little tomboy, and all of my best friends were the boys in the neighborhood, and I would have to go and sit and watch them play their basketball games, and they got to play pee-wee football and their baseball games. I would sit there and be like, why can't I compete? I can throw the ball better than they can and I can run faster than they can.

"The next thing I know, I look over and there's the Moultrie tennis wall (at the parks department) and somebody giving free lessons. When I hit that ball and then started playing against somebody, I was like, yeah, I can do this. I wanted to beat everybody on the other side of the net."

Wallace, who replaced Cissie Donigan as the women's coach in 1986, was playing on Georgia's men's team at the same time that Short was starring for the women's. He didn't coach her, but he saw her play plenty.

"I remember her as an extremely hard worker, very conscientious on the court, a real determined competitor - smooth backhand, great forehand, good serve, just a good all-around game," Wallace said. "Her net skills were outstanding and she was just fun to watch play."

The coach that signed her was Greg McGarity, who led the women's tennis program for four years, from 1978-81, and is now Georgia's J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics.

"To see Lisa receive an honor that she so richly deserves, it's just a wonderful moment," McGarity said, adding with a laugh: "Lisa really accomplished everything in college tennis once I stepped down."

What kind of player was Short?

"She was ultra-competitive - she didn't want to lose," McGarity said. "I think she only lost once in her high school career and she didn't lose much in college, either."

When Short, a four-time All-American, was reminded of the fact that she went 123-21 in singles during her outstanding college career, which is still the best winning percentage (85.4) in program history, she didn't latch on to the huge number of wins she had.

"Twenty-one?!!! OK, that's 21 too many [laughs]. Oh, my gosh," she said.

Short played professionally for several years after college, reaching as high as No. 63 in the world, before settling down and raising a family with her husband, Herbert. They live in Atlanta, where Short has been teaching tennis for many years. If she's not teaching young children the game she loves so much, Short is likely on the golf course or driving range.

"I'm obsessed with being a great golfer," she said.

One of the absolute joys in life is getting the chance to help deliver some really good news to someone you care about. Back in April, on the day that Short was voted into the Hall of Fame, I had the pleasure of helping get the word to her.

Wallace had been unsuccessful in reaching her over the phone, so he texted me to see if I could help. Short is someone I've known for 40 years, from her earliest days at Georgia. During her great Bulldog career (1980-84), Short practically became a member of my family. She used to babysit my two brothers and me when my parents were away, and my father, Joe Frierson, an accomplished local player and coach, worked with her on her game quite a bit.

"You were too little to know, after dinner we would go out to that indoor tennis court out by the Athens mall and he taught me how to hit a topspin backhand because my backhand was just a slice and a very defensive shot," she said. "We worked on that over and over and over again. He helped me a lot, he really did."

After Wallace reached out to me, I called Short and texted her, but she's not someone that's always attached to her phone. Then I emailed her husband, Herbert, who's also like a member of our family. I wrote: "Lisa needs to call Jeff!" I knew that Herbert would know exactly what that meant because he and I had talked about trying to get her in the Hall of Fame.

Eventually, Short got in touch with Wallace and he was able to deliver the very, very good news.

"It was hugely unexpected, for sure," she said. "When I came to Georgia, I was just focused on trying to win a challenge match on the challenge ladder, and it's just crazy - one second you're in high school and hitting on a ball machine with your daddy every night at the public tennis court, and then you go off to college and try to win a challenge match and get your feet wet.

"I never expected this, heavens no, it never crossed my mind to think about the Collegiate Hall of Fame."

She's in, as she should be - another win for one of the greatest players to ever take the court for the Bulldogs.