Mikayla Lopez clinched her first championship in her last appearance in the girls U15 singles of the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships after edging fellow CNMI player Negahr Rastguiy in their title game last Thursday in Fiji.
Lopez, who is on her third stint in POJC and will be moving up to the tougher U18 age group next year, swept Rastguiy in last Thursday's finale, 6-1, 6-2, at the Dr. Robin Mitchell Regional Tennis Centre in Lautoka to give the CNMI Teams its lone first place finish (singles) in the five-day competition.
Rastguiy, who played in the POJC's U15 draw for the first time, had her second straight runner-up finish in the Fiji tournament. Last year, the 13-year-old CNMI bet lost to teammate Tammy Ackerman in the girls U12 finals.
Ackerman also climbed up to the girls U15 division this year and she, Lopez, and Rastguiy dominated the Final Four of the age group. Ackerman then failed to advance to the finals after bowing to Lopez in the semis last Wednesday, 1-6, 2-6. The former Saipan Community School student went on to place fourth in the U15 after absorbing another loss at the hands of Samoa's Anastasia Tapusoa in the battle for third, 1-6, 0-6.
The CNMI missed its second singles crown in Fiji after Isabel Heras dropped her U12 title game against Fiji's Ruby Coffin. The host's bet pulled off a 6-4 win in the opening set and then cruised to a 6-1 triumph in the second to complete the sweep.
Heras's teammate, Carol Lee, also lost her consolation match against Vanuatu's Emma Maucotel, 3-6, 2-6, to settle for the No. 4 spot in the 12-player field. Heras made it to the finals after edging Lee in the semis, while Coffin prevailed over Maucotel in the other Final Four pairing.
In other age groups, three other CNMI players had respectable fifth place finishes in their respective divisions.
After falling one step short of marching into the semifinals, Luther Lizama notched two victories in the consolation draw to finish at the No. 5 spot in the 10-player field. Lizama secured the No. 5 place after eking out a three-set win over Vanuatu's Julien Pineda. Lizama, who defeated Cook Islands' Elijah Amataiti last Wednesday, 6-2, 7-6, faltered in the opening set, 4-6, but stole the win after sweeping the last two, 7-5, 6-1.
Duplicating Lizama'z feat was boys U18's Christian Miller. Miller survived teammate Rafael Jones in the consolation game, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 to finish fifth in his debut in the U18 age group. Jones and Miller, who both missed the Final Four round by just one win, arranged their battle for the No. 5 spot in the 11-player field after beating Cook Islands' Tamarua Payne, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, and Guam's Christian Penafiel, 6-3, 6-2, respectively.
In the girls U18, Thea Minor had a strong finish, as she swept her last three matches after dropping the first four to duplicate her 2011 performance. Minor had another fifth place finish in the U18 after ending the round-robin, 8-player field with a 3-4 record. The Saipan Southern High School student gained back-to-back wins in the last day of the pool play, topping Papua New Guinea's Lorish Puluspene, 6-3, 6-2, and Samoa's Loloma Ripley, 6-2, 6-1.
In the boys U15, Christian Cajigan was ranked No. 6 out of 11 players after losing his last singles match in the Fiji tournament. Cajigan, who won his first consolation game against Kevin Maukolao last Wednesday, 7-6 (4) retired, bowed to Kiribati's Kevin Maukolai last Thursday, 3-6, 6-7 (5).
Meanwhile, the CNMI bets started playing in the doubles events in Fiji yesterday and results will be published in Saipan Tribune's Monday edition.