Oak Hill Academy nabs tennis state championships

May 21, 2013 1:31:25 AM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


WEST POINT -- It sounds so simple. 


After all, how difficult is it to communicate? You can use words, hand signals, or eye contact to tell someone you want them to do just about anything. 


But just because the notion of communicating with a partner to accomplish a goal sounds easy doesn't mean it is, especially when boys and girls are thrown together in doubles teams all of the time. 


That's what makes Oak Hill Academy's Kim Kelly and John Wesley Williamson special. 


Kelly and Williams didn't come together by chance. In fact, the Oak Hill Academy seniors have been playing tennis for years, and doing it together with some of the state's best teams. 


Earlier this month, Kelly and Williams defeated Lamar School's Olivia Mabry and Joseph Marcello 6-1, 6-7, 6-4 to win the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA mixed doubles championship. 


"It really helps that me and John Wesley aren't just tennis partners. We're best friends because we can communicate really well," Kelly said. "Whether we want to poach, switch sides, or where we're going to serve or have a different strategy, when he is not playing well and I am playing well I can pick him up and be there for each other. Other teams we play, you don't see them talking to each other.  


"They are just tennis partners, so communication really has given us an advantage over the other teams." 


Oak Hill Academy's Anna Ready also won a title, capturing the No. 1 girls singles crown. Ready lost only two games en route to the victory, her first. 


For Kelly and Williamson, the victory was especially sweet because it wrapped up a successful partnership that saw them win a title last season. 


Williamson said he and Kelly started playing tennis in fourth grade and eventually became a team. He said they have become more familiar with the other's game so they can help correct mistakes, make subtle signals to communicate, and strategize about the best way to beat an opponent. 


Kelly said it also helps that both players like to play a fast game predicated on hard serving and net play. She has enjoyed playing mixed doubles because the intensity level is a little higher than girls doubles. 


When it comes to a trick to mastering effective mixed doubles play, Kelly and Williams agreed there isn't a secret to success. 


"There isn't one specific thing you can say that is the secret key to making us successful," Williamson said. "It has been years of practice and dedication. We will go out and serve a hopper of balls when other people would rather sit at home. I think our dedication, love and competitive edge is what has given us the edge over other players." 


Williamson and Kelly go back to the second grade together, so it isn't surprising they have developed an uncanny familiarity with each other on the court. They started to play together the summer of their ninth-grade year. 


"They just play together so well," Oak Hill Academy coach Brian Middleton said. "On and off the court they are really good friends. They have played together since they were little kids, and they have a lot of communication and knowledge of each other that other kids who are thrown together don't have. 


"This is a group that has wanted to play together, and they mesh well. I think sometimes they get frustrated because they are so close to each other. They are like brother and sister, and it shows. But, at the same time, they have each other's back. It is pretty cool to watch them play." 


Ready admitted she didn't feel she played her best tennis this season in ending a drought of title appearances without a victory. Still, she showed the potential that earlier this month earned her a chance to play tennis at Jones County Junior College. 


In the final, Ready lost only one game to Lamar School's Paige Gibson. 


Middleton said perseverance was crucial for Ready, who faced numerous older players earlier in her career. He said the losses she experienced as a elementary school student and a middle-schooler helped her grow stronger and allowed her to play her best tennis on the last day of the tournament. 


If ready played that well, she didn't let on. 


"I felt a lot of pressure because everyone was saying it was my chance," Ready said. "That is real stressful. I was a lot more nervous because everyone expected to me." 


Kelly and Williamson relied on their cohesiveness and support for each other to avoid putting too much pressure on themselves. Williamson said keeping tennis fun and continuing to encourage each other is what made winning back-to-back titles so special. 


"It has been really neat and a great experience for us," Williamson said.

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.