Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association is sending nine players to Guam later this month to participate in an Oceania Tennis Federation Junior Circuit-ranking tournament.
NMITA official and CNMI coach Jeff Race said the Commonwealth will be fielding a five-player boys team and four-member girls squad in the Guam event, which will run from March 24 to 27. The boys crew is composed of Robbie Schorr, Ken Song, Sean Lee, Ji Min Woo, and Seung Jin Paik, while Malika Miyawaki leads the girls team, which also has Conatsu Kaga, Asia Raulerson, and Maria Gregoire.
Race explained that the OTF Junior Circuit is for players in the U14 age group and the ranking tournaments under this program are patterned after the ITF Junior Circuit, which features U18 players. The OTF Junior Circuit had its pilot program (boys division only) late last year with Schorr and Song making it to the Top 5 and a couple more CNMI players rounding out the Top 30 list.
“It gives the best players around the Pacific to challenge each other and earn ranking points. There are four tournaments for this season and obviously the players with the most points get the top ranking and bragging rights at the end of the year. OTF-member countries select one local event from their calendar and submit rankings for consideration,” Race said.
In the CNMI, NMITA chose the 7th Tan Holdings Tennis Classic held in November and December last year as its ranking tournament. Guam will have its own this month, while the last two will be the North Pacific Regional Championships (the east and west group will have theirs) and the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships. The North regional will be held on Saipan from June 13 to 18, while the POJC will take place in August in Fiji.
The Commonwealth players will compete in the second ranking event well-prepared as they just finished two tournaments spread in four weekends. All nine participated and majority won in the 2016 White Coconut Tennis Classic and the 16th PIC Tennis Championships.
In the PIC tournament, Woo bagged both the boys U12 and U14 singles crowns, while Paik was the runner-up, while Schorr took the boys U16 crown. Lee made it to the semis of the boys U14 singles in the same competition, while Song lost in the U16 semis.
In the girls division of the PIC tournament, Miyawaki and Kaga were the champion and runner-up in the U14 age group, while Raulerson got the U14 crown in the White Coconut contest. Gregoire was a semifinalist in the White Coconut Tennis Classic.