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Native Sisters of the Net: Two Siblings Take to the Tennis Court at the Jim Thorpe Native American Games

The legacy of Sac & Fox Olympian and first NFL president Jim Thorpe is bringing Native athletes to Oklahoma for the Jim Thorpe Native American Games, which continue through Sunday in Oklahoma City.

Today, two sisters from the Kiowa, Creek and Zuni Nations—Lacie and Alexandria Unah--will be stepping on the tennis courts to compete. Lacie, who will be a senior at Anadarko (Okla.) High School this fall, began playing tennis as a freshman. Since then, she has been named as a three-year state qualifier and a state-level all-star by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the governing body for Oklahoma high school athletics.

When playing in singles, Unah said that personal responsibility is foremost.

“If you’re playing by yourself, it’s just about you,” said Unah. “You don’t have to rely on somebody else to help you. If you mess up, it’s your fault. But if you win, it’s all you.”

This year in doubles, Unah and her doubles partner came in fifth place overall. With doubles, Unah said that communication is the key component.

“You have to work together and communicate with your partner or you’re not going to win anything,” said Unah.

Younger sister Alexandria Unah began playing tennis in seventh grade, where her skills were polished by practicing against high school freshmen. The preparation that the sisters undergo includes a regimen of running, conditioning, crunches and hitting the courts up to four times each week. For Lacie, much of it has to do with conditioning.

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“It’s more about conditioning,” said Lacie. “You have to be prepared mentally, too. You could break down.”

Alexandria said that it was important for her to work with her friends on the court. “I go down to the tennis courts and go hit with some friends,” she said. “They help me with serving, my forehands and my backhands.”

"They're both very athletic," said Lisa Gragg, the head tennis coach for both Anadarko Middle School and Anadarko High School. "They play softball, and I'm just glad they've also chosen tennis. They're both really good kids. They work hard, and they have a very good work ethic."

When not playing tennis, the Unah sisters focus heavily on softball, which is the sport Lacie has played longer. At press time, Unah did not have any scholarship offers but wanted to make the teams of either Wichita State University or Haskell Indian Nations University.

The sisters also enjoy playing basketball and participating in pow wows, with Lacie adding that she enjoys beadwork, drawing and writing. Starting in July, Lacie will be the incoming princess for the Kiowa Tia-Piah Society.

For those who are interested in picking up tennis, softball or any sport that the Unah sisters are involved, they had strongly encouraging words. Lacie said that those who play sports gain “life lessons.” Alexandria added to her sister’s statement not to be discouraged by other people.

“Play hard and follow your dreams,” said Alexandria. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything or you’re not able to do that game. Just have nice, good thoughts that you can probably do it.”