When Zachary Smith was up 5-2 in the third set of the 2015 LHSAA Division III state championship match, it stood to reason he would clinch his first prep title — and as an eighth-grader at that.
But Smith faded and wound up losing in a third-set tiebreaker.
Fast-forward to 2016. Smith was determined to not let the same misfortune occur. The top-seeded freshman won the Division III championship in straight sets, and he led Lusher to a runner-up finish for the team title.
Smith is The New Orleans Advocate’s outstanding boys tennis player for 2016.
“After being the runner-up (at state), I was very determined to do well this year,” Smith said. “I was younger then, and there was an intimidation factor that affected me. This time, I felt like I was in it with the older kids. I had confidence.”
Smith has every right to be confident. He is the top-ranked junior player in Louisiana, one of the top-ranked juniors in the U.S., and he followed his prep title with the USTA Under-16 state championship in Lafayette on June 1. He is an excellent student, and he has a pedigree: His dad, Jeffrey, was a standout player at Tulane. His younger sister, Gavriella, also won the Division III championship this year as a seventh-grader.
“Both Zachary and Gavriella are very humble,” Lusher coach Gian Balsamo said. “Most tennis players who are as good as they are don’t play high school tennis. But these two both have a lot of school pride. They go out there to support our school.”
Smith has additional guidance from personal coaches Kevin Chaouat and Loic Didavi; the latter is a Davis Cup player for his native country of Benin.
“Tennis is a life thing,” Smith said. “You can have fun with it. The combination of tennis and good grades can get me into a really good school. That’s the plan.”
After winning consecutive state doubles championships, it would have been understandable if Morgan Forshag was leery about breaking up her on-court partnership with Lily Labiche.
But when Dominican graduated its top singles player from last season, Forshag was asked to step into the No. 1 singles role. She did so without hesitation, and she made the most of the move.
Forshag was dominant in 2016, winning the LHSAA Division I state championship in May. It was her third straight year clinching a championship, and she paved the way for Dominican to win its third consecutive team title.
For her accomplishments, Forshag is The New Orleans Advocate’s outstanding girls tennis player of the year.
Forshag defeated Mount Carmel’s Taylor Garcia in straight sets in the final after losing her only match of the season to Garcia in the regional tournament. Forshag, a junior, played as the No. 2 seed at state, while Garcia entered as the top seed.
As much as she relished winning the singles title, Forshag said it was much more important to win three in a row in the battle for the team championship.
“We all practice year-round, and it’s the common goal when we get together for the high school season,” she said. “We talk about it in the halls and come out ready to play.”
Dominican coach Peggy Miner said everything went as planned, with Forshag winning singles and Labiche teaming with Gabby Terranova for another doubles title.
“She’s a great player, but she’s also a great person,” Miner said of Forshag. “You can’t say enough about her — excellent student, a leader, a great attitude. She has all the things you want in a player, and you need someone like that to help you win championships.”
Brother Martin, So.
Ben Franklin, So.
Country Day, So.
Kurt Shiell/Kent Shiell
St. Paul’s, So./Sr.
Charlie Livaudais/Andre Nguyen
Country Day, Sr./Sr.
Brandon Beck/Trey Hamlin
Mt. Carmel, So.
Gianna St. Julien
Ben Franklin, Sr.
John Curtis, Sr.
Lily Labiche/Gabby Terranova