CNMI junior tennis players Mikayla Lopez, Negahr Rastguiy, and Isabel Heras barged into the finals of the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships.
Lopez and Rastguiy arranged an all-CNMI finals in the girls U15 singles after eliminating separate foes in the semifinals last Wednesday at the Dr. Robin Mitchell Regional Tennis Centre in Lautoka, Fiji.
Rastguiy advanced to the finals after sweeping Samoa's Anastasia Tapusoa in the semis, 6-3, 6-4, while Lopez prevailed in the other Final Four pairing against fellow CNMI player and last year's U12 champion Tammy Ackerman, 6-1, 6-2.
Rastguiy made it to the semis after finishing second in Pool A. She ended the round-robin pool play with a 3-1 record, absorbing her lone loss at the hands of Lopez last Wednesday morning, 2-6, 2-6.
Ackerman also had a 3-1 record in pool play, placing second to Tapusoa in Pool A. The 12-year-old CNMI bet dropped her last pool match against Tapusoa, 2-6, 0-6, last Wednesday morning and absorbed her second straight loss in the tournament against teammate Lopez in the afternoon game. Ackerman was scheduled to have a rematch against Tapusoa for the No. 3 spot in the 11-player field.
Lopez and Rastguiy were also set to duel for the girls U15 crown yesterday and results of the all-CNMI finale were unavailable at press time.
In the girls U12 singles, Heras ousted fellow Commonwealth player Carol Lee to move into the finals. Heras took the opening set with a hard-earned 7-6 (6) win, but failed to close the match early when Lee recovered in the second set with a 6-2 victory. In the deciding third set, Lee ran out of gas, allowing Heras to cruise to a 6-1 triumph.
Heras was set to battle Fiji's Ruby Coffin for the girls U12 tiara. Coffin claimed the other finals berth after ousting Vanuatu's Emma Maucotel in the other Final Four pairing, 6-3, 6-2. Heras and Lee had an early semis collision after placing second and first in their respective pools. Heras dropped to No. 2 in Pool A after losing her final pool game against Coffin last Wednesday morning, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6. Lee had a perfect 5-0 record in Pool B, completing the elimination round sweep with a tough 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory over Maucotel last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, six other CNMI bets in the POJC missed the Final Four round.
Luther Lizama fell one step short of advancing to the semis after finishing only third in Pool B of the boys U12 singles. Lizama had a 2-2 record in the elimination, missing the cut after bowing to Samoa's Harley Cronin (3-1) last Wednesday, 2-6, 1-6.
Lizama then won over the Cook Islands' Elijah Amataiti in the consolation draw, 6-2, 7-6 (5) and was squaring off againts Vanuatu's Julien Pineda for the No. 5 spot in the 10-player draw.
In the boys U18 division, Rafael Jones and Christian Miller were also just one notch away from barging into the semifinal round. Jones earned a 3-2 record in Pool A, losing the last semis berth to New Caledonia's Nicholas Lesturgie, who escaped with a crucial 7-6 (4), 6-1 win over the CNMI bet in the pool play last Wednesday.
Miller was in Pool B and placed third behind semifinalists Heve Kelley of New Caledonia and James Elliot after posting an even 2-2 card. Miller missed the semis bus when he fell to Kelley in his final pool game last Wednesday, 1-6, 4-6.
Both Miller and Jones dropped to the consolation game for the fifth to eighth place in the 11-player field with the former boosting his chance to finish at No. 5, following a 6-3, 6-2 win over Guam's Christian Penafiel. Jones lost his consolation game against the Cook Islands' Tamarua Payne, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6.
In the girls U18, Thea Minor moved out of slump after a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the Cook Islands' Lillian Maui. Minor had a 0-4 record in the first two days of competition in Fiji before ending her skid last Wednesday. However, her 1-4 record is only good for a tie for sixth place in the eight-player draw. The girls U18 singles has a round-robin format with the top finisher after seven games getting the championship, which is a toss between Fiji's Tarani Kamoe (6-0) and Papu New Guinea's Marcia Tere-Apisah (6-0).