McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 25, 2014

Tennis offers Hixson new community

By Matt Goisman
Sports Writer

McALESTER — Though she ran track in junior high in Tulsa, McAlester senior Krystal Hixson said sports didn’t play a huge role in her life growing up there. When her family moved to McAlester before the start of her freshman year — her second big move, her family having moved from Oklahoma City to Tulsa when she was 2 — she only started playing volleyball because she couldn’t take Spanish.

Volleyball introduced Hixson to head tennis coach Chad Waller, and four years later, Hixson is a college-bound, state-qualifying tennis player for the Lady Buffaloes.

“I didn’t plan on playing any sports,” Hixson said Friday.

“I decided I’d go finally try tennis, and the day I started it I really liked it.”

Hixson is the Lady Buffs’ 2014 varsity one-singles player. She’s been to the state tournament as both a doubles and singles player, and said she prefers playing singles.

“It’s a lot of communication without communicating,” Hixson said of playing doubles. Of playing singles, she said, “It’s just kind of all up to me. I make my own mistakes.”

Though she’s made State three years in a row — as a freshman she made the junior-high state tournament — Hixson has yet to place. She and 2013 graduate Loretta Medina made the second day of competition in 2012, but Hixson said she’d like to end her high school career by not only making State, but finally placing at it.

“It’s really big, and there are a lot of schools that you didn’t maybe see (during the season),” Hixson said of State.

“It’s a lot of fun, but that first day, we’re all trying just trying to make it to the next day.”

To reach that goal, Hixson said she’s gone into this season with a different mindset and a newfound confidence that she can compete with anyone. That confidence comes not just from success in previous years, but also from the work she’s put in with Waller.

Hixson said Waller’s helped her with a number of elements of her game: “My strokes, mostly, just like changing little things. Where I need to place the ball, ball-placement, definitely that, and just my footwork, how to set up for a ball.”

As a player, Hixson said the backhand stroke seemed more natural at first, but over time she’s come to use her forehand more and more.

Danish professional player and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki, Hixson said, is her favorite player.

“She always goes for her shots,” Hixson said of Wozniaki. “She’s confident.”

However this season goes, it won’t be Hixson’s last playing competitive tennis. She’s been offered a tennis scholarship to Seminole State College, where she’ll play for coach Brian Nelson.

“He’s a really nice coach,” Hixson said of Nelson. “I think he’s really involved with the team.”

Hixson said she plans to study nursing at Seminole. A nursing degree normally takes three years to obtain, she said, so Hixson might take extra classes over the summer to finish the degree at Seminole, which is a two-year school.

Hixson said she’s particularly interested in psychiatric nursing, but could work in other fields if necessary.

“The human mind, I don’t you could probably ever figure it out,” Hixson said. “It’s always different.”

Along with tennis, Hixson has been a four-year member of McAlester’s volleyball team. Though she said tennis’ combination of individual play and team camaraderie appeals to her more, she’s still enjoyed playing volleyball enough to keep at it.

During the fall 2013 volleyball season, Hixson played libero, a defensive specialist who only plays in the back row.

“I love to pass,” Hixson said. “I love getting that good pass to the setter to finish off the point.”

When she’s not playing or watching sports, Hixson is also an active member of St. John the Evangelist Church in McAlester. She’s a member of the Stations of the Cross group for St. John’s, traveling all over and even outside of Oklahoma to perform.

“I feel like I’m getting closer to the kids and the school and to God,” Hixson said.

“It’s just a good church family, and we get kind of close during Lent, and I like that.”

When Hixson moved here, she lacked both friends and an interest in sports.

Four years later, solving one problem helped solve the other.

Contact Matt Goisman at mgoisman@mcalesternews.com.