Eight CNMI junior tennis players earned slots on the North Pacific Team that will see action in the 2019 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji.
Sean Lee, Sam Ryu, Maria Gregoire, Daniel Kang, David Kwon, Helen Kim, Hyejin Elliot, and Jimin Woo made it on the select squad and will be teaming up with Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau players as they go up against the representatives of East and West groups in the POJC that will run from July 25 to Aug. 3.
Lee qualified for the annual tournament after winning the boys U16 singles title in the 2019 North Pacific Regional Championships held on Saipan last week. He also took the doubles crown after partnering with Ryu, who incidentally was the runner-up in singles play. Kang and Kim were also runners-up in the boys and girls U14 singles, while Kwon played in the same age group and finished third after stunning No. 4 seed Jacob Jackson in the consolation match. Elliot won the battle for third place, too in the girls U14 singles to make the grade for POJC, while Gregoire was ranked second (with FSM’s Isabella Sipos) in the girls U16 doubles and third in the singles. Woo got an automatic ticket to the Fiji tournament, as he advanced to the finals of both the boys U14 singles and doubles events last year.
Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association official Jeff Race is happy with the eight players bound for the POJC, but believes the CNMI could have gotten more slots.
“We had a lot of close games that could have gone our way. We could have done better,” said Race, who brought 13 players to Fiji in last year’s competition.
“With our team losing close matches, these could serve as motivation for our players to train and work harder next year because Palau, Guam, and FSM are catching up on us. I commend our competitors for their very good performance in the North Pacific Regional Championships. Guam did a great job in the U12 team event and FSM also stepped up in the other divisions,” the long-time CNMI head coach added.
Meanwhile, Race is seeking wild cards in the POJC for three players—Jun Wang, Anthony Gregoire, and Serin Chung—who prevailed in their respective ranking matches.
In the POJC, Race’s players will be battling representatives of the Cook Islands, Norfolk Islands, Tahiti, and Samoa of the East Pacific and Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea of the West Pacific.