By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Kate Zacharias has seen her fair share of playing partners over the course of this season for the Stillwater High School girls tennis team. Some of them have worked out well — some not so much.
When she took the court during the Stillwater triangular against Norman and Ponca City Monday at Sunset Park, Zacharias didn’t even have to say a word to her playing partner.
That’s because her partner was her sister and senior, Kristen Zacharias.
“It was a lot of fun playing with (Kate) because we know each other so well and we know how the other plays,” Kristen Zacharias said. “We really worked together well. We haven’t practice a lot together, but I think we played well together.
“It meant a lot to me. I’m really glad I got to play with her for my last tournament and share the frustrations and the victories.”
The reason the two haven’t been paired up before? Kristen is one of the top singles players for the Lady Pioneers, while Kate has a strangle hold on one of the two No. 2 doubles spots.
But with Kristen playing in her final home match, Stillwater coach Nathan Robinson decided to change things up a little bit.
“It was a treat for them,” Robinson said. “They had asked me at the beginning of the year if they could play in a tournament and I thought it’d be nice to have them play here at the Stillwater tournament. That way their parents could come and their family could watch them play together.”
As it turns out, the dynamic duo knew what they were talking about when they begged Robinson to pair them up together.
The sisters swept their way through the triangular, slamming Norman 6-0, 6-2 before pulling out a 6-3, 2-6, 11-9 tiebreaker win over Ponca City.
“It was really a special treat to see them pull off two wins like that,” Robinson said. “They’re both really good players. ... Just to see them both out there laughing, having fun and just being sisters and enjoying being out on the court, it was really fun and it was a special treat for even me to see them out there together.”
And when things did get tough, it’s that bond — the bond they’ve had since playing together as little girls — that helped them pull through.
“It helps a lot,” Kristen said. “It’s a little frustrating at times, but we know that we’ll get over it as soon as the next point comes.”
“I knew they were good players, but you never know how they’re going to play together — especially being sisters,” Robinson said. “You never know who is going to get mad at the other one and stuff like that. I did expect them to do well, but they definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Like most siblings, the Zacharias sisters aren’t without their differences — and they did have a few in their matches Monday. But when it comes to tennis, they support each other in a way that’s hard to describe.
“We bicker a little bit, but I think we get along more than we bicker,” Kristen said. “I think that’s because we’re so close.”
Tennis has been a staple in the Zacharias family for years. As a junior high student, Kate would often watch Kristen play in high school tournaments with awe when she was in junior high.
“I remember in junior high when they came and played with us, I thought they were so good,” Kate said. “I was like, ‘I’m never going to be that good.’”
“But you are,” Kristen said with a laugh.
And Robinson said it’s because of Kristen’s guidence and the bond they share that has helped Kate develop her game.
“I knew Kate in passing last year as a junior high player,” Robinson said. “I got to work with her some this summer, but she’s made leaps and bounds in the last month. Kate now would absolutely dominate Kate of a month ago.
“She’s got that older sister helping her along and she’s really wanting to be a good tennis player — almost too much at times. So, it’s nice that she has someone like Kristen helping her along.”
As for whether or not Robinson would consider pairing the sisters up again as the team prepares for regionals, the Stillwater coach played it coy.
“We might throw them in there just to have some fun,” Robinson said. “But from here on out it’s going to be business as usual, trying to get prepared and work toward our goal of getting to state.”
And that’s just fine for the two sisters.
“This was just for fun,” Kristen said. “We don’t have any other tournaments except regionals. I’ll play singles and she plays doubles.”
“Yeah, she’s good at singles,” Kate said. “I’m just kind of stuck in doubles, which is OK.”