Oak Ridge Tennis on the Rise

The Oak Ridge tennis team is on the rise. That much is evident. How much so? We’ll just have to wait until April to find out, when the tennis postseason gets underway with the District 14-5A tournament.

Right now, though, is just the beginning of the season. “Oak Ridge has been down the last couple years and we’re starting to come back up,” said second-year coach Daniel Marshall. “We practice every day; we don’t have an offseason. I don’t believe in offseason.” In that vein, the squad spent six weeks last summer at camp, working on improving its game.
The boys team is really young, with two seniors leading the way for the rest of a group made up of freshman and sophomores: Thomas Favrot, Steven Ha, Casey Gerke, John Pinon, Justin Wagner, Charles Mayo, Ryan Redd, Joshua Dunn, Grant Parks, Phillip Lee and Jake Simpson.

The girls team:,Kelly Buchholz, Ginger Baldwin, Shelby Leake, Madona Khuon, Courtney Griffith, Sarah Diesen and Danielle Vu, will lose only one senior to graduation at the end of the year, and is “loaded with juniors,” Marshall said. There’s also a solid group of freshman and a promising eighth-grade class.

“In the district we’re in, a team like us, we have to find a crack,” he said. “The Woodlands and College Park can put their strengths out there, and when they do that I have to find a crack, Where are we going to find the crack?’ It may be girls doubles, mixed doubles. We can’t go heads up and fight like they do. We find where’s the weakest draw.”

Oak Ridge opened its season with a tournament at The Woodlands last week and will play a tournament at Klein this week. The squad has improved since last year, Marshall’s first at the helm following two years at Klein Collins.

“Our overall goal is always just to get better,” he said. “We were so far behind the other teams (in District 14-5A) last year we were the floor. This year that wasn’t the case. We were better than Lufkin, better than New Caney. We beat both of those teams. We were pretty close to beating Conroe. We were right there with Conroe. Our expectation is just to keep climbing. As long as we’re getting better, that makes me happy.”

At Klein Collins, Marshall had four top-three finishers at the state tournament. In 2007, Andy Erickson placed third at state, and the doubles team of Ben Chen and Andrew Sumrall also placed third. A year later, Erickson was third again and Chen and Sumrall finished second. Erickson now plays at George Washington University and Chen at the University of Texas. Sumrall is on the club team at Texas A&M University.
Marshall said he’s had to work harder with his new group of players, who don’t have as much experience or haven’t come from high-level tennis academies.

“I enjoy it more because they take to you when you teach them to a different level,” Marshall said. “Those kids, they appreciation you more, I think. You can see yourself coming through them. “They take on a little bit of your style. And they do what you ask them to do. They’re hard workers.”

Marshall also added that he was keen on the staff at Oak Ridge, especially principal Tommy Johnson and athletic director Bob Barrett. “(Johnson’s) expectation when I came in was really high,” Marshall said. “They really support all the other sports. That’s the great thing at Oak Ridge, the AD and the principal are really supportive of even the small sports like tennis and golf. I’m appreciative of them because they appreciate our hard work. They want us to be great again. Oak Ridge used to be great. I think it’s going to come up again. I think we’re on our way back up. It’ll be a little bit of time, but Oak Ridge will be great again.”   

 Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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