OKLAHOMA CITY — Ada tennis coach Skip Griese didn’t see much of Wednesday’s Class 4A No. 1 Doubles state championship match.

With all six of his players in action at the same time and scattered all over the sprawling Oklahoma City Tennis Center complex and with a team state title still a possibility, Griese wasn’t able to enjoy the first-set domination by seniors Kayli Edwards and Whitney Spears in their bid for a school record third straight doubles title, and he also missed Edwards and Spears winning three of the first four games in the second set.

Instead, Griese arrived just in time to see his top-seeded duo lose their ninth point in a row to fall behind the Bishop Kelley duo of twin sisters Andrea and Amy Lewis, 4-3, and walk to the sidelines in disgust.

The veteran Ada coach promptly called his two seniors over and, demonstrating the timing of a good stand-up comic and the motivational ability of Knute Rockne, he proceeded to remind them (in a not-so-subtle manner) that they should go back to playing like 4A’s best doubles team.

“He said we were playing scared,” Edwards recalled. “We were frustrated from the game before, because we had missed some easy shots.”

“Skip kinda got us motivated,” Spears added.

Griese’s brief visit paid immediate dividends, because Edwards and Spears were suddenly transformed back into the aggressive, confident team that frustrated and dominated the second-seeded Lewis twins throughout the first set.

With Spears serving, the Ada duo lost just one point in the eighth game — knotting the set at 4-4 on Edwards’ emphatic overhead slam at the net for the game winner — and went on to close out a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory and complete their historic three-peat.

The win by Edwards and and Spears prevented a sweep of Wednesday’s four championship matches by Bishop Kelley (which easily claimed the team title) and capped a season that began with Edwards and Spears not playing together as Griese searched for his best line-up and ended with Ada’s young girls squad posting the 10th state runner-up finish in Griese’s 22 years at the school.

Already assured of second place in the team standings before they began their final matches of the day, the Cougars needed a sweep of all four and a loss by Bishop Kelley in one of the singles finals to tie for the top spot. Ada got neither and wound up a distant second (34-26), but Griese’s squad was well clear of the rest of the field.   

Ada’s No. 2 Doubles team of freshman Laney Stout and sophomore Markie Martin followed a straight-set win in the semifinals with a straight-set loss, 6-3, 6-0 to the top-seeded Kelley duo of Meredith Burns and Perry Johnson in the title match; sophomore Taylor Anderson rallied to win a 6-7 (she lost, 13-11, in the tiebreaker), 6-4, 6-4 marathon with Stephanie Alleman of Carl Albert and finish third; and sophomore Kristen Clubb (who teamed with Stephanie Rhynes to win a state title in No. 2 Doubles as a freshman) was beaten, 6-3, 6-4, in the third-place match in No. 1 Singles by Shawnee’s Jessica Haddad — the same girl she defeated in three sets to complete Ada’s sweep of the title matches at last week’s 4A Regional Tournament.

“As proud as I am of Kayli and Whitney for winning three straight titles in a row, I’m just as proud of my three sophomores and freshman for the way they played all year and the way they played today,” Griese said. “The Bishop Kelley coach (Mia Johnson) gave us the best compliment. She said our singles players had overachieved all year.”

While Ada’s younger players exceeded expectations, Edwards and Spears were exactly where they had expected to be Wednesday, after Griese put them back together for good midway through the season. They cruised through their semifinal match, crushing another sister duo, Lauren and Audra Skimbo of Claremore, 6-2, 6-0 (they won the final 10 games after the Skimbos broke their serve to knot the match at 2-2 in the first).

Then, after losing just three games combined in the regional and state tournament to that point, Edwards and Spears were expected to get their toughest test of the postseason from the Lewis sisters, who had handed the Ada duo one of their two losses during the season.

Other than the brief spurt by the Kelley duo midway through the second set, however, the challenge never materialized.

Displaying a variety of shots that both frustrated and overpowered their younger opponents, Edwards and Spears lost just three points on their serve after the Lewises held serve to briefly knot the set at 1-1. The Ada pair dominated at the net, they hit a high percentage of first serves, and used both finesse and power to consistently win the big point.

The Kelley duo didn’t win a point in their second service game, and Edwards — who scored point after point on blistering overhead winners — used a nice drop shot to win the game and give Ada a 3-1 lead. Spears held serve in the next game and won it with a soft passing shot to make it 4-1, then, after another service break, Edwards served for the set and won it with another passing shot.

In the second set, the Kelley pair held service to take brief 1-0 lead, but Spears’ forehand winner at the net won the second game to tie it, another service break made it 2-1, and Spears and Edwards appeared on their way to an easy victory when they took the fourth game on a scorching backhand at the net by Edwards.

Then, just when it appeared the match was all but over, Spears and Edwards seemed to abandon the aggressive style that had given them the lead. After Kelley held serve to pull to within 3-2, Ada didn’t win a point on Edwards’ serve to tie it at 3-3, and the Kelley pair won all four points in the next game to make it 4-3 and prompt the visit from Griese.

After Edwards and Spears huddled with their coach, they came back with Spears serving to win all but one point in the eighth game and knotted the set on Edwards’ overhead slam at the net, and they lost just one point in the ninth game and won it on a soft cross-court backhand by Edwards to take the lead for good at 5-4.

Edwards then served for the match, and, after an overhead winner at the net by Spears gave Ada the first point, the rest of the game featured a double fault by Edwards (only the second by Ada in the match) and two unforced errors by the Lewises, the last of which (a shot into the net by Andrea Lewis) ended a game that was an anti-climax to a one-hour tennis clinic by Spears and Edwards.

“We wanted to play the best we had ever played and not hold anything back,” Edwards said. “I think the wind (which blew steadily from the north all day at 20 to 25 miles per hour) bothered (the Lewises), because they play inside a lot. We play in the wind all the time.

“We beat them in the most recent match we played, so we were the No. 1 seed today,” she added. “I think that got into their head a little bit.”

If Anderson’s match with Alleman (which was only in the second set when all of Ada’s other matches had ended) had been for a championship instead of for third place, it would have been one of the highlights of the tournament.

After losing the long first set on the 24-point tiebreaker, Anderson blew most of a 5-2 lead before finally winning the second set on her sixth set point, then she fell behind, 2-0, in the final set and again, 3-2, after losing her serve in the fifth game. But came back with a service break of her own to take the lead for good at 5-4 and won the match on a beautiful drop shot that Alleman hit into the net.

Griese said he was pleased with his team’s runner-up finish and credited assistant coaches Terry Swopes and Joe Neil Griese and Ada principal Bill Nelson (himself a former top tennis player and an adviser to the team during the season) and the parents of his six team members for the success of the season.

“It takes a lot of parental support to get this far,” Griese noted. “The parents take the kids to the tournaments and make sure they they have everything they need, and the kids made the commitment to work hard all year. I was just a bystander.”By BOB FORREST

Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ada tennis coach Skip Griese didn’t see much of Wednesday’s Class 4A No. 1 Doubles state championship match.

With all six of his players in action at the same time and scattered all over the sprawling Oklahoma City Tennis Center complex and with a team state title still a possibility, Griese wasn’t able to enjoy the first-set domination by seniors Kayli Edwards and Whitney Spears in their bid for a school record third straight doubles title, and he also missed Edwards and Spears winning three of the first four games in the second set.

Instead, Griese arrived just in time to see his top-seeded duo lose their ninth point in a row to fall behind the Bishop Kelley duo of twin sisters Andrea and Amy Lewis, 4-3, and walk to the sidelines in disgust.

The veteran Ada coach promptly called his two seniors over and, demonstrating the timing of a good stand-up comic and the motivational ability of Knute Rockne, he proceeded to remind them (in a not-so-subtle manner) that they should go back to playing like 4A’s best doubles team.

“He said we were playing scared,” Edwards recalled. “We were frustrated from the game before, because we had missed some easy shots.”

“Skip kinda got us motivated,” Spears added.

Griese’s brief visit paid immediate dividends, because Edwards and Spears were suddenly transformed back into the aggressive, confident team that frustrated and dominated the second-seeded Lewis twins throughout the first set.

With Spears serving, the Ada duo lost just one point in the eighth game — knotting the set at 4-4 on Edwards’ emphatic overhead slam at the net for the game winner — and went on to close out a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory and complete their historic three-peat.

The win by Edwards and and Spears prevented a sweep of Wednesday’s four championship matches by Bishop Kelley (which easily claimed the team title) and capped a season that began with Edwards and Spears not playing together as Griese searched for his best line-up and ended with Ada’s young girls squad posting the 10th state runner-up finish in Griese’s 22 years at the school.

Already assured of second place in the team standings before they began their final matches of the day, the Cougars needed a sweep of all four and a loss by Bishop Kelley in one of the singles finals to tie for the top spot. Ada got neither and wound up a distant second (34-26), but Griese’s squad was well clear of the rest of the field.   

Ada’s No. 2 Doubles team of freshman Laney Stout and sophomore Markie Martin followed a straight-set win in the semifinals with a straight-set loss, 6-3, 6-0 to the top-seeded Kelley duo of Meredith Burns and Perry Johnson in the title match; sophomore Taylor Anderson rallied to win a 6-7 (she lost, 13-11, in the tiebreaker), 6-4, 6-4 marathon with Stephanie Alleman of Carl Albert and finish third; and sophomore Kristen Clubb (who teamed with Stephanie Rhynes to win a state title in No. 2 Doubles as a freshman) was beaten, 6-3, 6-4, in the third-place match in No. 1 Singles by Shawnee’s Jessica Haddad — the same girl she defeated in three sets to complete Ada’s sweep of the title matches at last week’s 4A Regional Tournament.

“As proud as I am of Kayli and Whitney for winning three straight titles in a row, I’m just as proud of my three sophomores and freshman for the way they played all year and the way they played today,” Griese said. “The Bishop Kelley coach (Mia Johnson) gave us the best compliment. She said our singles players had overachieved all year.”

While Ada’s younger players exceeded expectations, Edwards and Spears were exactly where they had expected to be Wednesday, after Griese put them back together for good midway through the season. They cruised through their semifinal match, crushing another sister duo, Lauren and Audra Skimbo of Claremore, 6-2, 6-0 (they won the final 10 games after the Skimbos broke their serve to knot the match at 2-2 in the first).

Then, after losing just three games combined in the regional and state tournament to that point, Edwards and Spears were expected to get their toughest test of the postseason from the Lewis sisters, who had handed the Ada duo one of their two losses during the season.

Other than the brief spurt by the Kelley duo midway through the second set, however, the challenge never materialized.

Displaying a variety of shots that both frustrated and overpowered their younger opponents, Edwards and Spears lost just three points on their serve after the Lewises held serve to briefly knot the set at 1-1. The Ada pair dominated at the net, they hit a high percentage of first serves, and used both finesse and power to consistently win the big point.

The Kelley duo didn’t win a point in their second service game, and Edwards — who scored point after point on blistering overhead winners — used a nice drop shot to win the game and give Ada a 3-1 lead. Spears held serve in the next game and won it with a soft passing shot to make it 4-1, then, after another service break, Edwards served for the set and won it with another passing shot.

In the second set, the Kelley pair held service to take brief 1-0 lead, but Spears’ forehand winner at the net won the second game to tie it, another service break made it 2-1, and Spears and Edwards appeared on their way to an easy victory when they took the fourth game on a scorching backhand at the net by Edwards.

Then, just when it appeared the match was all but over, Spears and Edwards seemed to abandon the aggressive style that had given them the lead. After Kelley held serve to pull to within 3-2, Ada didn’t win a point on Edwards’ serve to tie it at 3-3, and the Kelley pair won all four points in the next game to make it 4-3 and prompt the visit from Griese.

After Edwards and Spears huddled with their coach, they came back with Spears serving to win all but one point in the eighth game and knotted the set on Edwards’ overhead slam at the net, and they lost just one point in the ninth game and won it on a soft cross-court backhand by Edwards to take the lead for good at 5-4.

Edwards then served for the match, and, after an overhead winner at the net by Spears gave Ada the first point, the rest of the game featured a double fault by Edwards (only the second by Ada in the match) and two unforced errors by the Lewises, the last of which (a shot into the net by Andrea Lewis) ended a game that was an anti-climax to a one-hour tennis clinic by Spears and Edwards.

“We wanted to play the best we had ever played and not hold anything back,” Edwards said. “I think the wind (which blew steadily from the north all day at 20 to 25 miles per hour) bothered (the Lewises), because they play inside a lot. We play in the wind all the time.

“We beat them in the most recent match we played, so we were the No. 1 seed today,” she added. “I think that got into their head a little bit.”

If Anderson’s match with Alleman (which was only in the second set when all of Ada’s other matches had ended) had been for a championship instead of for third place, it would have been one of the highlights of the tournament.

After losing the long first set on the 24-point tiebreaker, Anderson blew most of a 5-2 lead before finally winning the second set on her sixth set point, then she fell behind, 2-0, in the final set and again, 3-2, after losing her serve in the fifth game. But came back with a service break of her own to take the lead for good at 5-4 and won the match on a beautiful drop shot that Alleman hit into the net.

Griese said he was pleased with his team’s runner-up finish and credited assistant coaches Terry Swopes and Joe Neil Griese and Ada principal Bill Nelson (himself a former top tennis player and an adviser to the team during the season) and the parents of his six team members for the success of the season.

“It takes a lot of parental support to get this far,” Griese noted. “The parents take the kids to the tournaments and make sure they they have everything they need, and the kids made the commitment to work hard all year. I was just a bystander.”

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