Northeast Tarrant

Dragons duo leave state meet with great experience

The recent trip to the UIL state tennis tournament for Carroll’s mixed doubles team of Clara Merklin and Matt Landers was a weekend of full of experiences but didn’t include placing.

The mixed doubles partners were Region II champions but failed to advance once they got to the state meet.

Merklin and Landers lost to Sonya Bhakthavachalam and Cole Lawson, from Klein, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round, but even that match had its own unique story.

Due to rain, their match was pushed back and pushed back again. By the time the match got underway, it was 2 a.m.

The match ended about 3:30 a.m. and the remainder of their stay entailed catching up on sleep until about noon before they grabbed a meal and headed back to Southlake.

Many of the state finals matches were so far behind the schedule, the UIL allowed schools to choose their own venues to play the state championship matches.

For Merklin and Landers, it was their first trip to the state tournament and as a junior, Landers fully fueled his desire to make a return trip.

“It was a weird experience because of all the rain delays,” Landers said. “The first match was a tough loss and I think we should have beaten them if we had played like we did at regionals. I want to go back for sure, for some unfinished business.”

Merklin, a graduating senior, still relished the opportunity.

“I was really happy to make it to state,” Merklin said, “as it was always one of my goals. “I got to see it my freshman year and Carroll has had someone five straight years at state.”

Winning the regional meet was certainly one of Merklin’s high school career highlights.

“Winning regionals was huge and having my teammates there for every point,” Merklin said when asked about what still sticks in her mind about this season.

The state appearance also has great memories for Merklin.

“We went on at 2 and didn’t finish until 3:30, but we were ready to play. But honestly, 10 p.m. is my normal bed time,” she said. “But we really can’t make excuses for it.

“And I also got a cool T-shirt out of it,” Merklin joked.

Landers reflected on how the support of the Dragons faithful helped make the experience special by having coaches and parents send them off in style.

Coming back for his senior year, Landers fully expects to play mixed doubles again in the spring season in addition to getting some singles experience in the fall.

“I like doubles in the fall,” he said. “I like playing for the team. I’m not big on the individual focus.”

Team sports are consistent for Landers, as he is also a point guard for the Dragons’ basketball team.

He said he will continue to play tennis and prepare for basketball this summer by attending a Christian-oriented basketball camp and then go to California to play tennis under supervision from a pro before coming back home to get ready for the fall tennis season, which kicks off on Aug. 3.

In between all of that, the Carroll basketball team will head to Norman to participate in a team camp at OU.

Merklin now looks ahead to college at Oklahoma State in the fall, where she will major in engineering. She is still planning to compete in a grand slam event during the summer before setting her racquet aside.

“That will be the last tournament,” she said.

She doesn’t regret anything about what she’s leaving behind as she looks ahead, though. Merklin played varsity tennis all four years and appreciates the experiences.

“It’s been a crazy four years,” she said. “The first two went so slow. The past spring I was finally consistently healthy.

“I played doubles in the spring my junior and senior year and prefer doubles because I feel that’s where I’m stronger,” Merklin explained. “I’m not mentally tough so it’s good to have someone on the court with me to stay focused. And Matt’s the best.”