High school boys tennis: Relaxed approach helping Crossings Christian's Haley in title defense
As Daniel Haley lined up another serve, his confidence grew.
With every volley returned and set won, his skills became sharper and he became stronger. Then a talented freshman at Crossings Christian, Haley was gunning for the No. 1 singles title. He was also looking to go undefeated.
Haley did just that, winning every match in his first high school season and capturing the Class 4A boys No. 1 singles state title. As a sophomore, Haley has faced tougher tests but continued growth and built confidence.
“I just have to keep a straightforward mindset,” Haley said. “Just keep it match by match. I can’t get distracted by too many outside elements.”
As the boys tennis state tournament gets underway Friday at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center, Haley and hundreds of competitors will flock to Will Rogers Park in hopes of standing atop the podium at the end of the day. He won his regional and heads to the state tourney looking to defend his title.
For Haley, replicating the winning euphoria is his main goal this weekend. He knows as the returning state champ, he’s going to get everyone’s best shot.
That doesn’t fluster him. It pushes him to be better.
“Daniel respects all of his opponents equally,” Crossings Christian coach Jamie Wheat said. “He’s a fighter. His preparation beforehand sets him up for success.”
Wheat said Haley’s drive to be better has trickled to everyone on the team. Crossings Christian won its regional with victories at No. 1 singles, No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles. Its No. 1 doubles tandem finished fourth.
That success is something Wheat said he hopes carries to the state tournament. With Haley’s leadership, he’s confident it will.
Wheat said Haley’s leadership capabilities were stellar when he arrived. It’s noticeable in the results and how he helps teammates when they’re down while encouraging them when matches are going well.
All of this while he has his own ups and downs.
“He’s one of the most humble players I’ve ever coached,” Wheat said.
Although Haley has dropped a couple matches this season, his goal for the state tournament remains the same. He wants to take it one match at a time and not look too far ahead.
Winning a state title four straight years is possible since Haley won the first, but he’s focused only on his opening match Friday. He can’t get to four state titles without capturing two and three first.
“I can’t look too far ahead,” Haley said. “I’ve got to do whatever I can for my team and see how far I can go.”