By Cam Huffman
Register-Herald Sports Editor
The tennis courts in Charleston will be filled with Nike bags, empty ball cans, Gatorade bottles and plenty of talent.
The state high school tennis tournament is set to begin Thursday in the Capital City. The Class AAA boys and girls will play at the Kanawha City Community Center Tennis Courts and the Class AA/A boys and girls will take the courts at the Coonskin Park Tennis Courts.
Both sites will be full of area netters competing for both individual and team glory.
Here’s a look at the local faces that will be putting their skills to the ultimate test.
In the battle among top seeds, Shady Spring’s Ryan Albaugh and Princeton’s William Robertson are two of the 16 players from around the state that will get a chance at a championship in the top bracket. Albaugh will play Grant Davis of Martinsburg in the first round, while Robertson will take on Will Wheatley of Washington.
Oak Hill’s Cameron Heath made the tournament in the No. 1 singles bracket. He’ll play Kerry Coles of Musselman in the opening round. Cameron’s twin brother, Christian, will play Jefferson’s Isaac Washington in the No. 2 singles bracket.
In the No. 3 seed bracket, Oak Hill’s Nick Oxendale qualified and will face Parkersburg’s Tristram Spitsnaugle in the opening match.
Four area players will compete in the No. 1-seed bracket for the state’s smaller schools. Justin Freund of Bluefield will play Logan Webster of Berkeley Springs in an opening match, and Coben Canada of Wyoming East will face Alec Moran of Lincoln.
Ryan Moore of Liberty will do battle with Cam Hornor of Bridgeport in that same bracket, while Tyler Gordon of Independence will play Grafton’s Mitch Crutchfield.
Albaugh and Buckland will represent the Tigers in the No. 1 doubles bracket, opening up against the No. 2 pair from Musselman. Robertson and Jacob Jones of Princeton will also be competing in that bracket, taking on a doubles pair from Washington.
Oxendale will team with Joel Bracken to represent Oak Hill in the No. 2 doubles bracket against a team from University.
Bluefield’s No. 1 doubles team of Freund and Tarin will get a bye through the opening round of the No. 1 doubles bracket.
They’ll face the winner of a matchup between teams from St. Joe and Wheeling Central in the second round.
Wyoming East will also have a team in the No. 1 doubles bracket — Canada and Witt will face a team from Keyser to open their run for a title — and Independence’s Tyler Gordon and Tolliver will take on a team from Bridgeport in that same bracket.
Shady Spring’s No. 1 will compete for the top prize in the girls’ singles division, just as Albaugh will be doing for the boys. Carly Kilmer will represent the Tigers against Sarah Law of Lewis County in the opening round.
Four area standouts will compete in the No. 1 singles bracket. Molly Lovern of Bluefield will take on Marissa Merrill of Lincoln to open play. Wyoming East’s Savannah Lusk is set for a matchup with Alexis Alastanos of Bridgeport. Hannah Bowman from Independence will face Grafton’s Hailey Rogers, while Paige Giammerino of Liberty will have an opening-round matchup against Petersburg’s Kelsie Roby.
Woodrow Wilson will be represented at the state tournament by its No. 2 doubles team of Hannah Heft and Madison Fox. They’ll take the court against a team from Musselman in the first round.
Oak Hill coach Mary Ann Paavilainen says the first year at the Class AAA level has been eye-opening but her team has experienced some level of success.
“The season went well,” she said. “It was certainly different playing triple-A, but we competed and did well for what we’ve got.
“I was proud of them.”
She also praised the team’s parents for their support.
The doubles team of Nick Oxendale and Joel Bracken, who went 16-1 this season, has advanced to Charleston, as have singles players Cameron Heath (No. 1, 6-10), Christian Heath (No. 2, 12-3) and Oxendale (No. 3, 16-1).
Bracken teamed with Aaron Grey to finish as runner-up in No. 3 doubles in the 2012 state event, and the Heaths both competed in singles and doubles.
Class AAA action begins at the Kanawha City courts at 9 a.m. this morning.
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(Steve Keenan contributed to this story.)