The CNMI Junior Tennis Team accomplished its mission in the 2013 ITF Pacific Oceania Junior Championships held early this month in Fiji.
The squad, which was composed of U12’s Carol Lee, Tania Tan, Michael Ren, and Robbie Schorr, U15’s Negahr Rastguiy, Tammy Ackerman, Moris Villanueva, and Chris Cajigan, and U18’s Tommy Choi, Amami Sakano, Jake Lee, Mikayla Lopez, and Thea Minor, bagged eight semis berths in the singles division and all six finals berth in the doubles.
“It was a very good showing for our team. I guess our best showing in POJC and we did it despite facing very strong players from Tahiti,” CNMI coach Jeff Race said in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday.
The eight Final Four berths surpassed the Commonwealth junior players’ feat in the 2011 and 2012 editions of the POCJ, which the CNMI also topped (in terms of semis appearances). Race’s wards won six Final Four tickets in 2011 to beat Fiji (4) and then had five last year to also down Fiji (4).
This year, the CNMI edged Tahiti, which notched seven semis slots, and the nine remaining berths went to Fiji (3), Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, American Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, and Papua New Guinea, which had only one player each entered in the Final Four. Ren, Tan, Schorr, and Lee all made it to the semis of the U12 singles, Ackerman and Cajigan advanced in the U15, and Minor and Lopez marched into the playoffs in the U18.
“Everybody played well. The first year (2011) when we won the most semis berths, it was quite unexpected, as for the past years Fiji and PNG are on top. Then we did it again last year, so this year, we had a very strong team and kind of expected to top the field again. Still, you can’t be overconfident, as some players may show up and do well, so when we held our ground against Tahiti, we’re happy we did not disappoint,” said Race, who gave his players just a few days of rest and started their training yesterday at the Pacific Islands Club.
“We have to start again. Correct the mistakes they committed in the past tournament and improved their skills and techniques,” said Race.
The CNMI mentor said they have to continue training, as the quality of players competing in next year’s POJC will surely go up.
“The two player limit per country will no longer be in effect, so it will be a very interesting and tough competition,” Race said.