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BURNET — In an emotionally charged ceremony Wednesday at Burnet High School, senior Laura Servise formally signed a letter of intent to play tennis at Lee College, the defending Division 1 National Junior College Athletic Association Tennis Champions, on a full scholarship.

Lee College coach Jason Haynes, a Burnet native in his 11th year at the Baytown campus, guided a teary-eyed Servise though the signing process as her parents, Gayle and Randy Servise, grandmother Ann Hudson and a gallery of well-wishers, including fellow athletes and coaches, looked on.

“I’m really excited about going to Lee College,” said Servise, who was also celebrating her 18th birthday. “I felt welcomed there when I met the athletes and the coaches. It offers me the opportunity to be a part of a championship-caliber program in a small-college environment. My grandmother, who was a professional skater always told me, ‘If you want it, you get it.’”

Burnet senior Laura Servise enjoys cake while celebrating her 18th birthday as well as the signing of her letter of intent to play tennis at Lee College. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Haynes heralded his newest recruit as a real gem and a great addition to his squad.

“Laura is quite the talent,” the Lee coach said. “She is tall, fast, plays hard and she likes to win. She is going to thrive in our system and get to play lots of matches against some great schools. I expect her to be playing big-time college tennis in a couple of years.”

Haynes said he discovered Servise on a regular scan of small-town athletes, who he said “tend to be late-bloomers or diamonds in the rough” and often overlooked.

“I asked some friends in Burnet about her on my recent 20th-year high school reunion (2009), and they said, ‘You’ve got to have her,’” Haynes said. “So we pursued her.”

Burnet tennis coach Tammy Hullum, who has mentored Servise the last six years, was equally thrilled by the signing.

“I knew Laura could play at a Division 1 school,” Hullum said. “Her maturity has come around and will only help her game as well. She has become very smart on the court and is able to pick an opponent’s game apart. I look forward to her making a positive impact on Lee.”

In the last 10 years under Haynes, the Lee Rebels captured three national championships, five national runner-up finishes and produced 18 All-Americans.

“Our record is success,” Haynes said. “Our program is one of the best women’s collegiate tennis programs of any division (NCAA or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). We have a 92 percent transfer rate for our American players to receive full educations and then 100 percent for our international players.”

Haynes said Servise will have an immediate opportunity to make a huge impact in the Lee lineup.

“Our current No. 1 player, Nadia Lee, who has World Tennis Association tour experience, walked up to me on Laura’s visit and said she would love to play doubles with her,” Haynes said. “As for the singles, she has to find her backhand to compete against major college players.”

With only a few months remaining before graduation, the ever-intense and competitive Servise has a solid shot at her first state tennis title in Class 3A after reaching the regional semifinals a year ago. Despite splitting her time with volleyball, she has advanced to the regional matches since her freshman year, when she competed in mixed doubles with Levi Cockrill and then advanced the next two years in singles competition.

BHS girls athletic coordinator Mike Cavender called the signing “a special moment,” where all the hard work had paid off. He thanked Servise for her contributions and achievements and wished her the very best. The ceremony closed with a photo blitz and a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”