CNMI junior tennis player Carol Lee had an explosive debut in New Zealand, advancing into the finals of the 2012 Waikato Christmas Junior Open.
The unranked Lee is entered in the 32-player draw U12 singles, stunned two seeded foes and notched four wins at the Waikato Tennis Centre in Hamilton to advance to the title game against Fiji's Ruby Coffin.
Lee started her U12 singles bid with a 6-0, 6-0 demolition of the host's Cassidy Hughes last Friday and continued her run last Saturday and Sunday, eliminating the third-seeded Annabel Coates, 6-3, 6-1, and fifth-ranked Sophie Michi, 6-2, 6-1.
With her three wins, Lee advanced to the semifinals where she pulled off an upset against No. 2 seed Alysha Nowacki, 6-1, 6-3.
Joining Lee in the U12 singles draw was teammate Isabel Heras, who missed an all-CNMI finals after bowing to Coffin in the Final Four. Heras also clobbered her foe in the opening round, blasting No. 8 seed Hannah Yee. Next up for Heras was Letava Tagunai and the CNMI netter won anew, 6-0, 6-1. Heras's biggest test came in the quarterfinals and she passed after surviving top-ranked Sarah Kate Weekley, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. However, Heras failed to set up a finals date with Lee after losing to Coffin, 1-6, 1-6.
Lee and Coffin collide for the U12 crown today at 8:30am (5:30am Saipan time). Lee is the second CNMI player to advance to the finals of the Waikato tournament. Negahr Rastguiy was the first one, as she battled top-ranked Sarah Knighton last year but lost in the finale, 1-6, 2-6.
The two CNMI U12 bets are also competing in the doubles and U14 singles. Lee and Heras won their opening match in the doubles, shutting out Hughes and Kelly Benish, 6-0.6-0. The duo then faces the second-ranked Phoebe Adler and Courtney Huff in today's quarterfinal round.
In the U14 singles, Lee prevailed in her first round match against Caitlin Kashyap, 6-1, 6-1, before losing to No. 2-ranked Louise Walte, 1-6, 3-6. Heras drew a bye in the first round, but fell to Mia Wardlaw in the second, 3-6, 0-6.
Meanwhile, Luther Lizama was the CNMI's lone male entry to the Waikato tournament and he dropped his debut in the boys U12, bowing to No. 14 seed Anton Shepp, 1-6, 3-6.
Besides the competition in Hamilton, Lizama and company will also play in Gisborne and Auckland.