By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
As Stillwater High School tennis players Trini Bui and Stephanie Dermer walked off the court following a 6-1, 6-0, win over Ponca City, neither one looked like they had broken a sweat.
That’s how dominant the Lady Pioneers’ No. 1 doubles duo was in their sweeps over Norman and Ponca City during the Stillwater triangular Monday.
“Yeah, it was pretty easy,” Bui said. “(Ponca City) is one of the easier teams to play. It wasn’t like Edmond North or Bishop Kelly. It was really relaxing — it wasn’t tight — and we just had fun.”
The pair only dropped one set — the first one of the day against Norman — before dominating in such a way that even Stillwater coach Nathan Robinson seemed in awe, taking care of Norman 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.
“We just called that set our first set and brushed it off,” Bui said.
“It was really good to see them bounce back from that,” Robinson said. “They didn’t get too far down. They got down early in their tiebreaker, but they were able to stay in it mentally and still laugh and smile. That helped them push through the negative side and come out and win.”
Bui and Dermer weren’t the only ones needing a tiebreaker to stay perfect. In fact, of the eight doubles matches played, four of them went to a tiebreaker with Stillwater winning all four of them — including Kristen and Kate Zacharias’ 6-3, 2-6, 11-7, win against Ponca City. The Zacharias’ sisters also defeated Norman 6-0, 6-2.
“It’s always a thrill to play in front of people you know, when usually half your matches are away,” said Stillwater’s Jordan Stine, who teamed up with Anthony Sorrentino to sweep the No. 1 doubles on the boys side. “It gives you that extra edge and it just felt fantastic.”
“When we were losing 0-2, I thought we were going to lose it,” Sorrentino said. “But we came back hard. We just battled and got our returns and serves in.”
While Stine and Sorrentino struggled to put away the team from Norman, they had no problems against Ponca City — dismantling the Wildcats’ No. 1 team with a straight set 6-3, 6-4, win.
“It was a great day,” Stillwater coach Michael Porter said. “All our doubles players are seniors. This was their home meet and they played great all day long. It was really, really great to see the seniors go out in style like this, playing their best tennis all year.”
And that’s exactly what both coaches were looking for in this triangular — not so much the wins, but the improvements before regionals next week.
“It was just pushing through and fighting, finding ways to win,” Robinson said. “That was a big part of the day. We don’t have our full squad here, but we have pieces and parts of the team that will be there in regionals and at state, so it was good to have those players figure out ways to win by fighting, clawing and scraping their way to wins.”
Even the Pioneers’ No. 2 doubles team of Ty Castoe and Daniel Huggins, showed its ability to fight before losing to Norman 6-2, 7-6 (7-5). Castor and Huggins bounced back with a 6-4, 5-7, 11-9, win over Ponca City to close out the boys’ triangular in thrilling fashion.
“That came down to the wire,” Porter said. “Both teams were struggling with their serves, but then once it got into the super tiebreaker we just served so well and it just took the pressure off of us.”
Doubles may have been the bright spot for both squads in the triangular, but the singles matches also provided plenty of excitement.
Taylor Jones rebounded from a 6-0, 6-0, loss to Norman’s Maggie Marcum, to dominate Ponca City’s Hannah Baron 6-2, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Alex Wuller had a hard-fought match with Blair Didlake, but came up on the losing end of a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) decision.
“Alex lost a tough match, but being a sophomore, this is her first year playing,” Robinson said. “Seeing her play the way she did, that’s really impressive and says a lot about where she could be in a year or two.
“Taylor’s the same way. She lost the first match against a tough, good player. Then she came through and won her second match — even when she’s knicked up a little bit — it was good to see her pull that out.”
Stillwater’s boys struggled a little bit more, as No. 1 singles player Noah Smith only managed to take three games in five sets against Norman’s Jarrett Ferguson and Ponca City’s Cody Parson.
Jun Ti Zhang put up a little more of a fight after losing 6-0, 6-0, to Norman’s Jeff McKnight, but fell to Ponca City’s Cameron Sherbon 7-5, 6-1.
“We were in every game,” Porter said. “We played lots of long points, lots of long games and we got better as the day went on.”
With the Lady Pioneers’ dual against Claremore already postponed due to the chance of rain Tuesday, the Lady Pioneers will focus their attention on regionals while the Pioneers prepare for their next home match against Claremore at Couch Park next Tuesday.
“This tournament definitely boosts our confidence,” Sorrentino said. “It probably places us together because we did so well. We killed it today.”