McALESTER — McAlester’s senior tennis players received their final send-off at the team’s annual awards banquet Tuesday at the McAlester Country Club. Seniors Chance Sistrunk, Kolten Koonce, Krystal Hixson and Parker Tidwell were part of Buffs and Lady Buffs teams that all qualified for the Class 5A state tournament.
For these seniors, making State is nothing new. But as guest speaker Shawn Howard, Director of Therapy and Wellness Services at the McAlester Regional Health Center and a former McAlester High School tennis player, said, that hasn’t always been the case.
“For a long time, I stopped looking at the paper when I lived in McAlester, because I knew there wouldn’t be anything about tennis,” Howard said. He graduated from McAlester in 1991.
“So you guys owe a huge round of applause both of these coaches, because it’s so enjoyable 20 years later,” he said. “Looking back, it was unheard of that everybody qualified for State. When I played, there were three people.”
In his speech, Howard discussed the “four pillars of tennis:” concentration; dealing with adversity; belief in self; and perseverance.
“Even when you’re playing doubles, you’re by yourself out there,” Howard said. “You don’t have time to look at your partner right at the last minute and figure out where you’re going to hit that shot.”
Prior to Howard, Victory Park Baptist Church pastor Jody Domingue, the father of Buffs doubles player Ben Domingue, gave an opening prayer. Everyone ate, then head coach Chad Waller handed out awards and discussed the season.
“For the first time in several years, the junior high girls, which actually was all freshman girls, qualified for State,” Waller said.
“We finished playing better tennis than we were at the start, and that’s all I can ever ask for as a coach.”