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April 30, 2013

Seniors prepare for last stand at State

DUNCAN — At the end of each season, the Duncan girls tennis team carries on a tradition that has been held as long as its players can remember.

During the Lady Demons’ final lap around the softball field near the tennis complex at practice, Duncan’s seniors run in front of their teammates and the players run in a formation resembling the letter V. Players have dubbed the ritual the “End of Year Flying V.”

When it came time to orchestrate the 2013 rendition of the Flying V during practice last Thursday, seniors Brittany Toone and Samantha Cassidy were the ones leading the way.

Following an unprecedented amount of success throughout the last four seasons, Toone and Cassidy face one more familiar challenge later this week: once again competing at the Class 5A State Tournament.

“They’ve meant so much to this program. They’ve put in the hard work and have become great leaders,” Lady Demons coach Phil Barnes said. “They’re a huge part of the success we’ve had.”

Take one look at the seniors’ resumes and it’s clear that hard work has paid off.

Toone is a four-time regional champion, has placed in the top four at state three times and has been honored as an Oklahoma All-Star three times.

Cassidy has already won a state title in No.1 doubles, took third in the event at state as a junior, has won regionals twice and was named to the Oklahoma All-Star team twice.

Each players’ roots with the program began years before high school, as Cassidy and Toone were taking lessons from Barnes at Duncan’s summer tennis camp as early as ages 10 and eight years old.

Upon reaching high school, the pair burst onto the scene. Toone took third in No.2 singles at state her freshman year and Cassidy was a state champion in No.1 doubles her sophomore season.

For Cassidy, winning that title with partner Taylor Spradlin is the one moment that sticks out among the countless memories of her time in the program.

“It didn’t totally click for me right away, at first it felt like I had just won another tournament,” Cassidy said. “But when me and Taylor [Spradlin] got our rings and looked back at the bracket, that was really cool. That was something I’ll never forget.”

Toone’s experience with Duncan tennis was a time of growth on and off the court, as she transitioned from a freshman who was “nervous about every tournament” to a senior poised to make the most of every moment she has left with the team.

“Not only has it been a battle of tennis, but with my spiritual life it has helped me grow with my relationship with God,” Toone said. “After I got third at state at the end of my freshman year, from then on I had a new confidence. Especially this year, just being my senior year, I want to go out with confidence and not be fearful.”

With that new confidence, Toone was forced to step up from No.2 to No.1 singles in her sophomore year. She hasn’t missed a beat, taking fourth at state sophomore year and third junior year in the event.

As part of a tight knit team, Cassidy and Toone spend any free time they have together with each other and the other members of the Lady Demons.

“When i wanna do something on Friday night, I contact the girls on the team,” Toone said. “They’re good people, they’re so much fun and I trust each and every one of them.”

When asked about her and Toone’s bond off the court, Cassidy doesn’t hesitate.

“Me and Brittany are best friends,” she said. “We love spending time with each other, and of course I’m going to miss her and my other teammates when we graduate.”

The pair lauded the man who has been there, teaching them the ins and outs of the game, from the start.

“I’m biased, but I think coach Barnes is best coach in Oklahoma,” Toone said. “He has been a great leader for me and my teammates for a long time.”

Cassidy agreed.

“He has a tough exterior but he is very supportive and can help you through situations like if you lose. He’s obviously an awesome coach to have.”

Complementing two decorated high school careers, the future is bright for each member of the Duncan girls tennis senior class.

Cassidy will attend Oklahoma State in the fall to major in marketing and business, while Toone will study at Southern Nazarene University, where she will major in graphic design and receive a scholarship for singing in the school’s choir.

When the Class 5A State Tournament begins Friday in Oklahoma City, Toone and Cassidy will take the court in their events for the final time. Given what’s at stake, expectations are high.

“We have as good a chance as anybody as team and in the individual events,” Barnes said. “If we work our hardest and play our best against the top teams we have a chance to win.”

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