The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Sports

May 5, 2014

Red Devils eye state tennis tourney berths

Members of the Oak Hill boys tennis team hope to add to a solid list of showings this season as state tournament qualifying gets under way this week around the state.

Class AAA Region 3 qualifying will begin Tuesday at 9 a.m., with the girls playing at Shady Spring High School and the boys at Woodrow Wilson. The matches that don’t get played Tuesday will be contested beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Woodrow.

On Friday, Oak Hill had its final tune-up for region competition by hosting Shady Spring. The Red Devil boys won 5-2, while the Shady Spring girls nipped Oak Hill 4-3.

On the boys side for Oak Hill, No. 2 seeded singles player Christian Heath, No. 3 Nick Oxendale and No. 4 Joel Bracken each won their matches, while Heath teamed up with his brother, Cameron, to capture No. 1 doubles. In addition, Oxendale and Bracken combined for the win at No. 2 doubles.

Winners for the OHHS girls were Miranda Clark at No. 3 singles, the No. 2 doubles tandem of Clark and Kelli Martin, and the No. 3 doubles duo of Jessi Gardner and Chloe Gillespie.

Veteran Oak Hill coach Mary Ann Paavilainen feels her team is ready for this week’s challenge.

The Oak Hill boys have enjoyed an outstanding overall campaign, losing just once — to Class AAA power George Washington.

“We have a veteran team,” the coach said. “I’m thrilled to death with them.

“They’ve worked real hard. They enjoy playing tennis; it’s important to them.”

A young girls squad hasn’t enjoyed quite the success of the boys, but they’ve won three matches. “It’s a new team, with young players,” said Paavilainen.

With teams such as George Washington and Capital, in addition to the more familiar local foes, the region is “hard on us,” said Paavilainen. “We’re a very small triple-A.”

In individual play, the top four survivors of the No. 1 seeds advance, as do the top three at No. 2, the top two at No. 3 and the winner at No. 4.

In doubles, three No. 1 seed duos move on to Charleston, as do two No. 2s and one No. 3.

“We should be able to take three singles and two doubles,” Paavilainen said.

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At next week’s state tournament, Paavilainen will be honored as the National Federation High School Coaches Association 2013 Sectional Coach of the Year for boys tennis. The WVSSAC announced the award recently.

Paavilainen has “demonstrated excellence and leadership” in the profession, the WVSSAC noted in a press release.

“We appreciate your dedication to the sport of boys tennis and your commitment to the development of young people throughout the state of West Virginia,” the release continued.

Paavilainen said she “didn’t expect” the award.

Now retired from the classroom, she’s coached 13 years at Oak Hill and 15 earlier years at Valley. At Oak Hill, she’s had at least one state tourney qualifier in each season, as well as having representatives in 11 of 15 years at Valley.

The Valley qualifiers included Valerie Falbo, who won the state championship at the No. 2 seed in the 1980s.

Falbo was one point from elimination against her foe in the title match, a fact Paavilainen has stressed to players in more recent years. “It was something,” she said of Falbo’s gutsy performance.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the kids I’ve worked with,” she added. “I guess that’s why I’ve stayed with it.

“It’s been a joy, and I don’t say that lightly.”

— E-mail:skeenan@register-herald.com

 

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