NORMAN — Nearing the end of a week designed to showcase the Crosstown Clash in many sports, it wasn’t exactly a Clash that took place on the tennis courts at Westwood Park, Norman High and Norman North, though the Tigers and Timberwolves were two of the 16 teams involved.
At the Norman Invitational, NHS finished in front of Norman North, yet both were well back of Tulsa Union, which amassed 57 team points.
A 16-team event, Heritage Hall (52), Ada (46), Deer Creek (41), Yukon (37), and Broken Arrow (37) followed. Then came the Tigers, in seventh place with 31 points, three spots in front of the T-Wolves, who finished with 26 points.
Still, far better than a referendum on in-town tennis dominance, it was much better as a predictor of state tournament entrants.
Two entries appear to be well on their way to Will Rogers Tennis Center come May, while a third would appear to be very much in the running.
North’s No. 1 doubles team of Josh Marrs and Matt Carter pulled out two huge victories on their way to the championship match, before settling on second place against a top-flight field.
NHS’ Jarrett Ferguson, a two-time No. 1 singles state tourney entrant for the Tigers, placed fourth.
Also, NHS’ Jeff McKnight, in his first season as a regular player in the Tiger lineup, at No. 2 singles, made a strong showing with a sixth-place finish against a strong field.
Marrs and Carter appeared to hit a wall in their championship match against Broken Arrow’s Mason Bridegan and Ian Sims, losing 6-2, 6-2, yet that may have been understandable considering the work they put into their second and third matches of the day.
Against teams from both Heritage Hall and Union, the T-Wolves’ tandem came back from one-set deficits in each to get to and win what now constitutes the deciding third set in prep tennis: a race-to-10 tiebreaker.
Marrs and Carter didn’t reach the state tournament last season, but have made it their goal not only to get there this season, but to finish in the top four. Winning their semifinal match Thursday was a big deal.
“It was a pretty big day,” Marrs said. “We knew we could beat Union, so that was a really big win. We knew it was going to be a really tough match for us.”
If Marrs and Carter make good on their goal, they will be reaching an objective more than a year in the making.
“We knew we were going to play doubles together this year all of last year,” Marrs said. “So we’ve worked together (through the summer and fall). We’ve kept working hard to make sure we have a successful season.”
NHS coach Kelly Stout thought Ferguson could finish anywhere in the top eight without feeling like he’d come up short against Tuesday’s field. Finishing fourth was all the better.
“This is the best I’ve seen him play singles.” Stout said.
Regionals and the state tournament are a long way away, but a few Tigers and T-Wolves may be ahead of schedule.
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