Southall enjoying rise to top

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

Sobeyone Southall’s goal last year was to keep moving up.

She finished 2007 with four straight tennis tournament wins and moved into the top 10 in the state’s 14-year-old girls rankings. In December, Southall was invited to play in an international event.

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It appears she’s headed in the right direction.

“Since I expect big things out of me, it’s not something that’s surprising,” Southall said. “I had a goal I expected to reach, so it’s not really overwhelming.”

People to People International invited Southall to be one of its sports ambassadors during its Youth Friendship Games in Holland this summer. President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the organization in 1956 as a way to bring people of different countries together.

Although Southall is taking it all in stride, her father, Albert, says he is still adjusting to the game his daughter took up just four years ago.

“It’s a great joy and a sadness at the same time,” Albert Southall said. “Now I look forward to her having tournaments. If she doesn’t, it’s like nothing is happening. It’s a joy I thought I’d never have – a champion child.”

Sobeyone is preparing for her first trip overseas against stronger, more experienced competition. But not even that seems to faze her.

“It’ll definitely be a new experience for me,” she said. “I know there are going to be players that are better. But I’m just going to remember what my parents tell me: If I know they’re better, I might as well take it as a learning experience.”

Between travel, expenses, schoolwork and practice for the Selma High team, Albert Southall said things get pretty hectic. But it’s all worth it.

“It looks like she’s moving up,” he said. “She wanted to be undefeated, and she wanted to be No. 1, so it looks like everything is falling in line.”

Even if she doesn’t become the next Serena Williams, Sobeyone has a backup plan – to be the next Beyonc.

“Singing just runs in my family,” she said. “I enjoy singing more than anything else.”