By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Georgie Axon had already scheduled her five official visits. Auburn was not on the list.
Still, Auburn assistant women's tennis coach Chris Hooshyar, who like Axon grew up in England, persisted.
"He phoned my mom," Axon said. "I remember coming back from practice, my mom was like, `I've just had the loveliest conversation for an hour with this coach. He's English. He's from Auburn.'
"I told him we already had five colleges. And the next I thing I know he's on a flight to see me practice. And I'm like, `Huh, okay. If you want to fly all the way over here.' Then I spoke to him and I really liked what he had to say. I really liked his manner."
Axon agreed to make an unofficial visit to Auburn, at her expense, but there was a problem. Visiting six schools in two weeks, after the transatlantic journey, was exhausting.
"`Can we just drop one? I'm so tired. I'm so tired,'" Axon remembers thinking. "'Just drop Auburn. It's an unofficial. It's fine. It's fine.' Then I got here, and I was like, `I want to go here.'
"Auburn really stood out to me mostly because of the coaches. I love the coaches and the team. I love the team. I could really see myself being here. I love sport, any sport. As soon as I visited here, I was mesmerized by every sport, all the facilities.
Having fellow Englanders Hooshyar and sophomore Alannah Griffin was also a plus for Auburn's program.
"I kind of had a connection there," Axon said. "It really did help."
Axon's impact at Auburn has been immediate and impressive. The freshman is second on the team with 18 singles victories, including her fourth over a ranked opponent to help the Tigers beat No. 5 Texas Tech Saturday in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic championship.
"I feel like I've really improved since I've been here, and I've really enjoyed playing," she said. "I've been a lot more confident. A lot more trusting in myself. We always have the same coach on the court. They're really good coaches, and they're really encouraging. It's a great environment to improve."
Axon said it took time for her to adjust to college tennis, being part of a team rather than competing as an individual.
"It's like the only time I think that tennis is ever a team sport," she said. "You have eight individuals who focus on their match. It's amazing how quickly you want to support your teammate on the court next to you."
Axon's off-the-court adjustments included two Southern staples: food and football.
"I'm going to get killed (back home) for saying this," Axon said. "I love American football. I really have gotten into that. They have a couple too many breaks, but I do love the way that it plays."
While Axon works on her forehand and backhand, her sweet tooth gets a workout after practice.
"The desserts," she said. "Oh my gosh. They're amazing. The ice cream, all different types, cupcakes, cookies.
"The food here is immaculate. You can't get any better. That was something that was unique to Auburn, the Wellness Kitchen."
Not every item on American menus is a smashing success, she says.
"I'm not a fan of your guys' bacon," Axon said. "I'm not going to lie. The bacon has not warmed up to me yet."
Axon says the hardest part of going to school more than 4,000 miles from home is being away from family and friends. Auburn's welcoming vibe eased her transition.
"What I love about here, it's almost like your second home," she said. "I feel so at home here already, and it's only been seven months."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer