While several sporting associations throughout the Pacific are busy preparing some of their finest athletes for the upcoming 2006 Micronesian Games on Saipan this summer, one of the CNMI’s local stars may be joining the home town team this summer on the American Memorial Park hard courts.
Tennis star Kana Aikawa has spent the better part of the last two and a half years working to be the best at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and has been busy making the most of her holiday homecoming by trying out for the women’s team.
Before Aikawa makes a final decision, she still has to earn an official spot on the team, but there are other factors involved.
“I might be back for the Micro Games but I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking of playing in the circuits on the mainland in the summer. My coach actually suggested that it might be really good practice for me to get a lot of match plays in during the summer so when I come back I will be ready for my senior year,” she said.
Her coach’s plans aside, Aikawa said that she is still swayed by the honor of playing for the CNMI on the home courts for the first time in her career.
“But on the other hand I’d really like to play in the Micro Games because I never played in it before. I was either not eligible or wasn’t here, so I would love to come back here if the schedule works out. I would love to come and play,” she said.
Aikawa said that the time she spends this off-season will greatly impact the way she faces the college competition when she returns to Hawaii for her final year of eligibility.
“The summertime is going to be crucial for me. If the competition level in the Micro Games will be high then there is a good chance that I will be back, but if playing in tournaments in California will be more challenging then I’ll probably do that instead,” she said.
The queen of the courts said that whichever way she goes this summer, she plans to get in as much time in match play as possible.
“I just need to plan out my summer well so I can gain as much experience as I can and get in as many matches in as I can because that’s what I need right now. That’s what my coach said, that I need match plays more than practice,” she said.
One of the disadvantages of returning for the Games is the pricey roundtrip ticket from Hawaii to the CNMI, and another is that Aikawa stands to play in a slew of events against a number of aspiring pros if she flies east to California.
“The satellite circuits are all over the U.S. but I can probably just play in one in California if I am lucky. But there are all kinds of open tournaments in California, so if I go there I’ll probably be playing every weekend,” she said.
After spending the last couple of off-seasons working her tail off to improve her skills, Aikawa recently broke through to the next level by becoming UH-Manoa’s top-ranked player.
As such, she was selected by the coaching staff to face the nation’s top-ranked player, Amber Lu, when they played the nation’s top-ranked team, Stanford, in a preseason competition last month.
Her team will get another chance to face the best next month when they travel to San Francisco to play five teams, including a rematch with Stanford.