The CNMI's Luther Lizama managed to steal a semis ticket in the ITF Oceania Plate 2012.
Lizama prevailed in a three-way tie for the second and last semis berth in Pool B of the Junior Boys division of the tournament played at the Nadi Sports Club in Nadi, Fiji. He finished the pool play with an even 2-2 card, forcing a deadlock for the No. 2 spot after slipping past Vanuatu's Ben Pechan in three sets last Wednesday, 4-6, 6-4, 4-2.
Also posting a 2-2 record were American Samoa's Carlos Ah Ching and Kiribati's Lataisi Mwea, but Lizama survived the stalemate and joined Pool A top finisher Krishan Raju of Fiji in the semis after earning a 5-5 sets won/sets loss record. Ching and Mwea were booted out after recording 4-4 and 4-5 slates, respectively.
Lizama had earlier won only one game in his first three matches and seemed headed for an early exit, but Ching and Mwea's losses last Wednesday kept the CNMI's semis bid alive.
In the semis, Lizama was paired against Pool B winner Jake Bergman, who swept the former, 6-0, 6-0, to advance to the finals. Raju defeated the Solomon Islands' Graham Mani in the other semis tiff, 7-5, 6-2, and the former went on to down Bergman in the finals, 7-6 (5), 5-3. Lizama battled Mani in the third place game and also lost yesterday's consolation match, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
The 11-year-old Lizama was the second CNMI bet to march into the semifinals of the Oceania Plate, as Tammy Ackerman had earlier secured a Final Four seat in the Senior Girls.
Ackerman swept her Pool A assignments and with her 4-0 record, she gained the top-seeding in the playoffs and was paired against New Caledonia's Olanza Matuu. Ackerman then drew first blood in the semis match, 6-1, but missed the finals after Matuu won the last two sets, 6-4, 6-4. The CNMI net went on to save third place after cruising past Fiji's Ruby Coffin, 6-0, 6-3. Samoa Anastasia Tapusoa, who topped Coffin in the other semis pairing, 6-1, 6-1, ruled the event after edging Matuu in a three-set finale, 6-4, 0-6, 6-4.
Ackerman's teammates, Isabel Heras and Carol Lee, also competed in the Senior Girls and finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Heras won her first consolation game against Samoa's Loloma Ripley, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, before bowing to Palau's Ayana Rengiil, 6-0, 6-1. Lee first bowed to Rengiil, 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, but saved the No. seventh spot in the 10-player field after defeating Ripley, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Duplicating Heras' feat was Christian Cajigan, who was entered in the Senior Boys. Cajigan missed the semis and was relegated to the consolation draw where he thwarted Tahiti's Michael Emery, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2, before losing to Guam's Christian Penafiel, 2-6, 0-6.