Edmond North's David Hager will be seeking his third consecutive state title at No. 2 singles Saturday, despite missing most of the season with a stress fracture in his back.
Hager started experiencing back pain while playing last summer. An MRI later revealed the stress fracture.
Hager's injury was the result of a busy summer schedule, where he played a lot and improved his United States Tennis Association junior ranking from 120 to 40.
“Just overplaying,” Hager said.
All of the pounding Hager's back received on the tennis courts left him with the stress fracture. No surgery was required, but Hager was forced to sit out for months to heal.
“It's been a long journey,” he said. “I got diagnosed in August after coming back from a big national tourney in Kalamazoo, Mich. In March, I was cleared (to play).”
Hager played doubles when he finally returned to the Edmond North lineup but was quickly returned to his No. 2 singles spot after one tournament. He is 13-0 on the season.
“I haven't had pain since I was cleared in March to play,” Hager said. “I have been really grateful. The MRI showed I was completely healed, but the doctor told me you really can't go off the MRI, you have to go off how your body feels.
“Even now, I will occasionally feel a little bit of discomfort, but nothing like I used to feel.”
Hager, a junior, is one of three Edmond North players who will be playing for their third state championship Saturday.
Nate Roper is the defending state champion at No. 1 singles. He also won the No. 2 singles title as a freshman. Junior Bryan Lilley is seeking his third state championship at No. 1 doubles for the Huskies.
Edmond North, which is trying to win its fourth consecutive boys team state championship, advanced both of its singles and doubles pairs into Saturday's semifinals.
Hager likely will be playing No. 1 singles for Edmond North next season since Roper will graduate next weekend.
“Nate is a great player,” Hager said. “We go back and forth all the time. It would be fun to play (No.) 1. I would definitely be willing to step up to the challenge.”