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Oklahoma State coach’s wife becomes inspiration for championship tennis team

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STILLWATER, Okla. - Chris Young has put Oklahoma State women's tennis on the map.

"I grew up in this state and I came back here with a passion of wanting to bring tennis to a higher level in the state of Oklahoma. And I don't think it's me, but I'm definitely humbled when people feel that way," Young, OSU's women's tennis coach, said.

Young's wife of 19 years, Sarah, is credited with a lot of that success. She became like a mother to many of the girls on the team, most of whom are from overseas.

"Actually, my grandma passed away a couple of weeks ago and she was one of the first ones to find out. It was really cool of her to come talk to me after that," OSU senior women's tennis player Carla Tur Mari says.

"When your mom is 10,000 miles away and when there's eight hours time difference, you can't really call your mom all the time and complain about certain things, so Sarah was always there for me," OSU senior women's tennis player Katarina Adamovic says.

About three years ago, Sarah would soon need those girls when her world was turned upside down.

"I just started having severe pain when I would eat or drink anything, including water. We just kept thinking it would go away, and we started going to doctors and it would be incorrect. And then we got to the point this past August where I was severely malnourished and just couldn't really do much to get out of bed from not eating," Sarah Young said.

That led Chris and Sarah to the Mayo Clinic where she was diagnosed with Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome, known as MALS.

It's a syndrome that compresses arteries and nerves, causing severe pain in the abdomen. The diagnosis would require numerous surgeries and treatments in Minnesota. And that's when the OSU family stepped in to help one of their own.

"The only way I could be there and support her fully, but try to do the best I could with the team, is to have a donor that has been allowing us to use his private plane to go up and back. It's just been a life saving, literally, opportunity to do that. We're so indebted," said Chris.

Sarah's health issues proved to be a turning point for the Cowgirls in post season play.

They started a #Big 1S with the 'S' standing for Sarah. And even though she wasn't there in person to cheer them on, she helped the team rally to win a Big 12 Championship and finish as NCAA runner-up last season.

"We were playing for Sarah, and to make her proud and to make her better. And that brought our team together and it showed on the court," said Adamovic.

"I couldn't be more thankful that he had those group of girls to support him because he sacrificed so much time away from them to be with me during that time and I couldn't be more grateful," Sarah said.

And throughout the ongoing battle, it's impacted Chris not only as a coach but as a person.

"I used to think winning a national championship was the end-all be-all and, you know, I think we learned last year that don't get too far ahead of yourself. Enjoy every moment for what it is because tomorrow could be different and it's not promised that it's going to be the same as today. So when you have great opportunities in front of you, just enjoy it," he said.

And with her road to recovery well underway, Sarah plans on doing just that.

"I just enjoy every time getting to cheer the girls on so I'm ready to do it again," says Sarah.