Shortly after confirming the participation of standout Kana Aikawa in the upcoming 6th Micronesian Games, CNMI tennis coach Jeff Race expects the current University of Hawaii-Manoa student to be the top seed.
In an interview with the Saipan Tribune, Race said Aikawa’s presence will serve as a huge boost in the CNMI’s push for medals.
“She’ll be the favorite,” Race said. “I don’t see anybody else being sort of ahead of her going into it.”
Race explained, though, that it won’t be an easy test for Aikawa and expects her to face tough competition.
“I don’t think it will be a walk in the park at all,” he said, citing that players from Guam such as Michelle Pang and Palau’s Kelly Koskelin will be among others that will provide strong tests for Aikawa.
Joining Aikawa in the CNMI women’s tennis team are youth star Mayuko Arriola and 14-year-olds Lila Mailman, Vivian Lee, and Audrey Motto.
Race had earlier said Aikawa was not going to be able to compete due to obligations with her school. However, Aikawa informed Race over the weekend that she was able to work things out and will be able to compete.
Aikawa, in an earlier e-mail to the Saipan Tribune, explained that suiting up for the CNMI in the upcoming Games was something she did not want to turn down.
“Playing for Saipan is definitely exciting for me because it is my home and I just love that place. Playing for a school is an awesome thing but playing for my island means so much more because that’s where I first picked up the game and fell in love with it,” she said.
Aikawa is currently playing for UH-Manoa and is the school’s No. 1 player as a junior.
While the roster of the women’s team is already settled, the men’s team is still in the works.
Race said that he, Tim Quan, and Todd Montgomery are already assured slots, and is considering placing young gun Ralph Buenaventura as the fourth member. The fifth member will either be fellow junior netters Ji Hoon Heo and Nicolas Son, one of whom will play in the doubles.
The Micro Games will be held on Saipan from June 23 to July 2 with over 1,400 athletes from the CNMI, Guam, Palau, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap, Marshall Islands, and Kiribati competing.