The Oak Hill tennis team won the Class AA Region 3 championship. Pictured are: (from left) Cameron Heath, Christian Heath, Matt Holliday, Alex White, Joel Bracken and Aaron Gray. The team will compete in state tennis tournament beginning today in Charleston.

An impressive doubles tandem on the tennis courts for Oak Hill High School this spring was borne out of a solid friendship.

Seniors Matt Holliday and Alex White have been the centerpiece of a banner year for the Red Devils, which included Coalfield Conference and Region 3 team victories.

Holliday and White have qualified for both singles and doubles play at the state tournament level during the final three seasons of their careers. They will be among those seeking state glory when the high school tourney begins today in Charleston.

In addition to their No. 1 doubles duo, which has posted a 15-0 record, Holliday (15-1) qualified in No. 1 singles and White (13-2) in No. 2 singles. Also, Oak Hill’s No. 2 doubles team of twins Cameron and Christian Heath advanced, as did the No. 3 doubles tandem of Joel Bracken and Aaron Gray, who are undefeated at 15-0 and yielded just eight games to foes this season.

“It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” coach Mary Ann Paavilainen said of the region team win, which added to a title won in 2010. “Their goal was to all make it to the states.

“The kids have worked hard and been so competitive.”

Paavilainen said the Red Devils have gotten a lot of support from assistant coach Randal Rosiek and manager Justin Pennington.

Holliday, who credited hitting partner, alternate Nick Oxendale, with helping him prepare, advanced to the state championship match in No. 2 doubles with Nick Smith last year, as well as taking part in singles events over the years.

“I gained a lot of experience from those matches. Now I know how I have to play to win a state championship,” he said, adding, “I worked very hard and I can tell I’ve improved from last year, especially with my serve and backhand.”

About playing with White, he said, “We’re best friends. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we have great teamwork and team chemistry.”

During his OHHS tennis career, Holliday has been part of 120 wins.

In his sophomore year, White was runner-up to a Charleston Catholic player in the No. 3 singles championship. He played doubles with Thomas Booth the past two seasons, losing in the semifinals in 2011.

In No. 2 singles, White’s goal is to at least advance to the championship match, which would earn him all-state designation. “From my freshman year to my senior year, I’ve gotten so much better in singles. I play (more) aggressively, and I have a larger repertoire of shots.”

In doubles, beating nemesis Charleston Catholic (a thorn in his side in tennis and in the state soccer finals in 2010) would be the ideal outcome. “I personally would like to give Charleston Catholic a run for their money.”

White is 13-2 in singles and undefeated with Holliday in doubles.

“Matt is one of my best friends,” he said. “We played in one tournament over the summer and, since then, we just clicked. We’ve grown a lot closer.”

Even though they may not always be the most talented duo on the court, White says, “We find a way to beat (the opponents) with team chemistry.”

The Class AA-A event will be held through Saturday at the Kanawha Tennis Center in Kanawha City. Class AAA competition will be staged at Coonskin Park.

— E-mail: skeenan@register-herald.com

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