Sarah Bowen couldn't win her fourth tennis state championship until she accepted losing as a possibility.
Bowen didn't drop a game in her first three matches at last month's state tournament, but she lost the first set in the championship match to Cascia Hall's Peyton Jennings.
“My goal was to not drop a game going into the finals, which I did, to show everybody I'm not messing around,” Bowen said. “Then I went into the finals and I was so nervous I could barely hit the ball over net.
“When I was down in the second set, I was like, ‘OK, I guess I'm going to lose.' Once I relaxed, and quit fighting the fact that it could happen, it just made it easier.”
Bowen, The Oklahoman's All-City Girls Tennis Player of the Year, won that second set and then the third to claim her fourth individual state championship and help Heritage Hall to its fourth straight team title.
“That's what I've been working toward since I was a freshman,” Bowen said. “That's what everyone was expecting of me.
“It's pretty amazing. I join a very small class of Oklahoma tennis players (with four titles). It's just amazing I get to be in the same class as them.”
Bowen started playing tennis as a 5-year-old because of her great-grandfather, Martin Rylan. He played tennis until he was age 90, but Rylan didn't have any kids or grandkids that took up the sport he loved.
“He went up to my mom and said, ‘You have to have one of your kids play tennis,'” Bowen said.
She played her first tournament at age 8 and won her first one a year later with Rylan in attendance.
“It was not even a year before my great-grandfather passed away, which was nice because he got to see me win my first tournament,” Bowen said.
Now, Bowen moves on to her college career at Hofstra, which is just about 30 minutes from New York City.
“I've always wanted to go to the east coast and I've always wanted to play D-I tennis,” Bowen said. “I'm excited to play different girls because I've been playing the same girls for about 10 years now.”
And she'll take an important lesson to college with her, one she learned in her last high school match.
“I need to just let go of some of the pressure of the situation and enjoy the tennis match I'm playing,” she said. “That's what I'm going to take when I go to college.”