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High school tennis: Grandfather's Christmas gift led Harding Charter Prep junior to state tournament

Harding Charter Prep's Carolyn Eakers-Jarrett advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals Saturday at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]
Harding Charter Prep's Carolyn Eakers-Jarrett advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals Saturday at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

When Carolyn Eakers-Jarrett was in the first grade, she received a special Christmas present from her grandfather.

“My grandfather paid for (tennis) lessons for me for Christmas because he saw Venus and Serena Williams on TV and he was like, ‘this is going to be you,’” Eakers-Jarrett said. “He got me a little racket and he paid for lessons. It was really sweet.”

Her grandfather’s investment in tennis lessons paid off for the junior at Harding Charter Prep. Jarrett knocked off defending state champion Mary Streller of Oklahoma Christian School in the quarterfinals Saturday of the Class 4A girls state tennis tournament.

Eakers-Jarrett won 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 to advance to the state semifinals for the third consecutive year in the state tournament. She avenged a loss to Streller in last year’s semifinals.

“I played her at state last year and she beat me good,” Eakers-Jarrett said.

It was the fifth meeting between Eakers-Jarrett and Streller in their careers. Each had won two matches, Eakers-Jarrett said.

“I played significantly better than I have all season,” Eakers-Jarrett said of her win over Streller. “I calmed down because I definitely had to because she is such a good player. I had to focus on my breathing.

“I feel like staying down and staying calm is what made the difference in that match.”

Her journey to a state title ended in the semifinals later Saturday, however, to Beth Bayless of Tulsa Regent Prep 4-6, 1-6.

Eakers-Jarrett said she is an emotional player who sometimes lets the emotions get the best of her. On her hand she had written reminders for her follow during the match: Turn your body, calm down, be patient and trust yourself.

She even sang gospel songs to herself while on the tennis court to help calm her.

“I get really antsy and the adrenaline starts moving and I get hyped about everything,” Eakers-Jarrett said.

After her grandfather introduced her tennis, Eakers-Jarrett eventually teamed with Oklahoma City tennis instructor and former USC player Luther Lauderdale.

“I call him my tennis dad,” Eakers-Jarrett said. “He started teaching me when I was around 8 years old. He has really helped me elevate my game.”

Eakers-Jarrett also is helping elevate the tennis program at Harding. Jessica Le, who is now playing for the University of Central Oklahoma, was a two-time No. 1 singles state champion at Harding, but as a team the Eagles won their first regional tennis title this year.

“This is really the first year we have been as deep as we are,” said Michael Eakers, Jarrett’s uncle and Harding’s assistant tennis coach.

For the first time, Harding advanced a full team (both doubles teams and No. 1 and No. 2 singles players) to the girls’ state tournament.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›