11 junior players make grade

Richard Steele is one of the 11 CNMI junior players who made the grade in last week’s 2017 North Pacific Regional Championships held in Guam. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Eleven CNMI junior players earned entries to the 2017 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships after their notable performances in last week’s 2017 North Pacific Regional Championships held in Guam.

Michael Ren, Malika Miyawaki, Sean Lee, Daniel Kang, and Anthony Gregoire gained slots on the North Pacific Team that will compete against the East and West squads in the POJC in Fiji in August for ruling their respective events. Also getting berths on the elite squad were Vincent Tudela, Ken Song, Grace Choi, Richard Steele, Maria Gregoire, and Hye Jin Elliot.

Ren and Miyawaki topped and boys and girls U16 singles event of last week’s tournament, while Lee won the boys 14-and-under singles crown, and Kang and Anthony reigned supreme in the boys U12 event. Tudela and Song advanced to the semis of the 16-and-under singles, Choi and Maria were runners-up in the girls 16 under and 14-and-under divisions, Steele made it to the Final Four of the boys 14 and under singles, and Elliot finished second in the girls U12 team event.

“We got 11 of our players going to Fiji after completing last week’s tournament in Guam. Our team did very well considering six of our top players missed the competition,” said CNMI Junior National Team coach Jeff Race in an interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday.

The long-time mentor and member of the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame was talking of Robbie Schorr, Carol Lee, Seung Jin Paik, Ji Min Woo, and siblings Conatsu and Coume Kaga, who are off-island either competing or training. Five of these players will also join the POJC, while Lee may compete in the same event if her schedule permits.

“We won 74 percent of our matches and that’s awesome. Maria played and won second place despite her injury (shoulder) and underhand serve. Michael upset last year’s winner in the 16-and-under singles and Daniel Kang and Anthony Gregoire delivered in the tough super-tiebreaker game against Guam in the team event,” Race added.

Now that the North Pacific event is done, Race said the Commonwealth’s players need better preparation for the POJC.

“We have a very strong boys U14 team with Sean joining Ji Min and Seung Jin in Fiji. We also had a pretty good chance in the boys 16-and-under with four of our boys playing in POJC. If Carol can play in the 16-and-under, we could make it to the Top 3. Maria, once she recovers, and the Kaga sisters will also boost our chances in the girls U14,” the CNMI coach said. “We will definitely go for our second straight championship in the POJC.”

The CNMI Junior National Team won the most titles (4) in last year’s POJC with Lee and Schorr claiming the 16-and-under and 14-and-under singles and doubles event. Lee’s partner in the doubles was Isabel Heras, while Schorr teamed up with Song.

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Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for 16 years. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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