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Boys tennis exceeds expectations with early season play

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5ca763389cf98Senior Carson Thoma has sights set on returning to state tournament at No. 1 Singles.
Senior Carson Thoma has sights set on returning to state tournament at No. 1 Singles.

Guided by the steady play of Carson Thoma and the emotional energy of Harrison St. Claire, Broken Arrow boys tennis team has “exceeded expectations” by the season’s midpoint.

“We’ve had a lot of success at tournaments so far,” said varsity tennis coach Scott Milner. “We have placed at more than half of the tournaments we have played so far and I can’t remember a season that we have done that.”

While seniors Thoma and St. Claire are leading the charge, a few underclassmen have extended the team’s depth. Junior Cole Hueber, who was playing on the Tiger soccer team last spring, and Sawyer Paris are adding strength in doubles, while sophomore Connor Collins has found comfort at No. 2 singles. In fact, Collins has won seven straight matches, winning two tournament championships and his match in Tuesday’s home dual with Claremore.

Lady Tigers experiencing 'year of growth'

What has been deemed a “year of growth” by Broken Arrow Lady Tiger tennis coach Kelli Collins, is on the verge of morphing into a second half in which “we will surprise some people.”

Stacked with a team in which most of the girls didn’t pick up a tennis racket until middle school, Collins has stirred rapid development in her players.

“It has been exciting to see them begin to understand advanced concepts in doubles and singles strategy and learn how to construct a point,” she said.

Perhaps no greater example of the swift improvement can be found than in that of No. 2 singles player, junior Sheridan Reeder, who didn’t start playing tennis until ninth grade. Reeder has a third place tournament finish and two consolation championships this season. She also has a winning record.

Two-time state qualifier at No. 2 singles is Camila Meza, who has stepped up as the No. 1 player for the Lady Tigers. With improving doubles play from seniors Morgan Lawless and Hannah Pumphrey and juniors Zoe Garland and Mikeala Panaytova, Collins said her team is “beginning to gel.”

And the growth continues.

“They have all stepped up,” Milner said. “They all have a high competitive edge where they are showing up to play in a lot of big moments, and that is contributing to a lot of our success.”

A fourth first-time varsity start is senior Nathan Zilmer, who has been mixed with St. Clair, Hueber and Paris as Milner seeks his best doubles combination.

“Nathan’s physique – length and height – give him a really good edge in doubles,” the coach said. “I can expect a lot of contributions from him.”Of the varsity-experienced seniors, St. Claire is the one of two players – Thomas is the other – who returns with state tournament experience, playing No. 1 Doubles last year. He spent some time at a year ago as well. Milner likes what St. Clair brings to a doubles team and expects he will see the blonde-haired senior back at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center in May.

“It helps to have Harrison at doubles,” Milner said. “He brings a lot of emotion and intensity into every single match that he plays.

“Doubles is all about momentum swings and getting into the match. Whenever he’s does that playing with a junior he’s able to be a good role model with that intensity and that fire.

Thoma, who has signed to play college tennis at Oklahoma Baptist University, has become a constant, dependable leader for the team.

“Carson always shows up,” Milner said. “He’s extremely consistent and fights every match. He gets himself in position to win some really big matches in a tough spot at No. 1 singles.”

Both the girls and boys teams are hosting eight-team tournaments Monday and Tuesday at the Broken Arrow High School Courts. The girls will be in action Monday, while the boys play Tuesday.