Pure dominance in jr. tennis
For the nth time, the CNMI Junior National Team made the North Pacific Regional Championships its stomping ground.
The Jeff Race-coached squad won eight of the 10 division championships at stake in the tournament that was held in Guam last week. Seung Jing Paik, Daniel Kang, Coume Kaga, Hye Jin Elliot, Malika Miyawaki, siblings Maria and Anthony Gregoire, Sam Ryu, Eugene Park, and David Kwon clinched titles in their respective divisions to show the CNMI’s domination against Palau, the Federates States of Micronesia, and Guam.
Kaga capped her unbeaten record in the girls U14 singles with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 victory over FSM’s Ridianne Wolphagen in the finals last Friday, 6-1, 6-2. Kaga dueled Wolphagen in the morning finals and then returned at the Rick Ninete Tennis Centre in the afternoon to team up with Elliot in beating Guam’s Kaia Malakooti and Palau’s Ngellittle Silmai in the doubles championship game, 6-1, 4-6, 10-7.
Paik was also scheduled to play back-to-back matches last Friday and topped the boys U14 singles event first before ruling the doubles competition with Kang. The No. 1 seed Paik lived up to expectations after sweeping giant-killer Deavyn Etscheit of FSM in the singles finals, 6-1, 6-1.
Kang also played his last match in the singles last Friday and won his consolation game against fellow CNMI player Andy Kim, 6-1, 1-6, 10-7, to finish fifth among the 16 players entered in the division. While Kang labored through a super-tiebreaker win in the singles play, he and Paik had no sweat getting the victory in the doubles finals after being handed a walkover against No. 2 seed Dakota Gibson and Thomas Ysrael of Guam.
Besides the U14 division sweep, the CNMI Junior National Team also went 2-for-2 in the girls U16, thanks to Miyawaki and Gregoire.
Miyawaki earned a perfect 5-0 record in the round-robin singles event after facing Gregoire in the final day of the tournament and winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1. Gregoire finished the division with a 3-2 mark for third place behind the 4-1 of FSM’s Anne Skilling.
In the doubles, Gregoire and Miyawaki were perfect (2-0), securing the division championship following a convincing 6-1, 6-0 triumph over Aprile Kim of Guam and Skilling. The winning duo also took only two sets to down Guam’s Paige Mantanona and Joycelyn Tenai, 6-2, 6-2.
In the boys U16 doubles finals, Ryu and Park outclassed fellow CNMI player Daniel Heo and Guam’s Marshall Zang, 6-3, 6-3. The doubles victory came just a few hours after Ryu lost to Zang in the title-deciding match, 3-6, 3-6.
Meanwhile, in the U12 team event, Gregoire and Kwon earned 10 points and won against all their five opponents to reign supreme in the division.
The duo completed the sweep in the competition after blanking North Boys Combined last Friday. Kwon gave the CNMI a good start with his 6-0, 6-2 triumph over FSM’s Jeffery Sigrah. Gregoire then picked up where Kwon left off, earning a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Juncheol Hwang.
With the twin wins in the singles, the CNMI pair had already secured the division championship and could have relaxed a bit in the no-bearing doubles event. However, Kwon and Gregoire went for the kill and cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory. Besides beating North Combined Boys, the CNMI duo also prevailed against two teams each from Guam and FSM.
In the girls U12 division, CNMI Girls 1’s Helen Kim and Serin Chung were ranked third, while CNMI Girls 2’s Ye Jin Son and Dana Lee finished fourth. FSM Girls 1’s Desirae Wolphagen and Leilah Etscheit topped the division, while Guam was runner-up, and FSM Girls 2 placed last.