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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Junior tennis players recognized

Coach Jeff Race, second left,  joins the CNMI Junior Tennis Team players for a group photo at the conclusion of the NMASA Annual Sports Banquet held last night at the Seaside Hall of Kanoa Resort.  (ROSELYN B. MONROYO) The CNMI Junior Tennis Team is this year’s recipient of the NMASA Team of the Year award.

The squad was composed of coach Jeff Race and players Carol Lee, Tania Tan, Michael Ren, Robbie Schorr, Negahr Rastguiy, Tammy Ackerman, Moris Villanueva, Chris Cajigan, Tommy Choi, Amami Sakano, Jake Lee, and Thea Minor. The team was handed the coveted award for turning the 2013 North Pacific Regional Championships and the 2013 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships into its stamping ground.

Saipan hosted the North Regional in June last year with the Commonwealth junior players sweeping the singles crown, as Jake Lee and Minor ruled the U18 age group, Rastguiy and Cajigan lorded it over the U15 division, and Ren and Carol Lee reigned supreme in the U12 category. Race wards then nearly bagged all the doubles championships, missing only the boys U15 doubles title.

The Commonwealth bets capped their domination in the regional tournament that also featured players from Guam, Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia, by gaining the maximum 12 slots on the North Pacific Team. With this feat, Race kept his promise, shaving his head on the day the CNMI secured the 12 slots on the North squad that eventually competed in POJC in Fiji last year.

In Fiji, the CNMI players put up another impressive performance against qualifiers from the favored West (Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Norfolk Island, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) and East (Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga) squads and representatives from powerhouse New Caledonia. At the five-day tournament, the Commonwealth players bagged eight Final Four berths in the singles division and advanced in the finals of all six divisions in the doubles event.

These achievements surpassed the squad’s performance in the 2011 and 2012 editions of POJC. The team also topped the 17-nation competition in terms of Final Four appearances, edging Tahiti, which gained seven semis slots. The nine remaining berths went to Fiji (3), Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, American Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, and Papua New Guinea. It was the third straight time that the CNMI clinched the most Final Four seats in POJC.

The group completed the tournament by bringing home two gold medals, seven silvers, and three bronzes.

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