CNMI Junior National Team coach Jeff Race is savoring the sweet taste of their victory in the 2018 North Pacific Regional Championships.
“We won eight out of the 10 divisions played in the tournament. It was a fantastic result and a reflection of our strong junior tennis program,” Race told Saipan Tribune in an interview yesterday.
What made the Commonwealth crew’s domination in last week’s competition more special is they did that feat with the absence of some of the team’s key players.
“We were without our five top players, but our team still put on a very strong performance in Guam. Those players who were seeded in their division delivered, while those who we hope would top their events, but we know would have a hard time doing it exceeded expectations,” the CNMI Sports Hall of Famer said.
Race was talking about girls U16 No. 1 seed Malika Miyawaki, U14 No. 1 Coume Kaga, and boys U14 No. 1 Seung Jin Paik.
Miyawaki was flawless in her division, winning all five matches in the singles to top the event and was also the champion in the doubles (with Maria Gregoire) after going 2-0. Miyawaki never dropped a single set in both the singles and doubles competitions and won 90.9 percent of her games (60 wins and 6 losses) in the singles and 82.8 in doubles (24-5) for an overall winning percentage of 88.4 (84-11)—the highest in the entire tournament.
Kaga duplicated Miyawaki’s perfect record in the girls U14 with the former registering a 5-0 mark (including the semis and finals) in singles and 2-0 in the round-robin doubles (with Hyejin Elliot). Kaga was also undefeated in 10 sets in singles and only dropped one set in doubles. The 13-year-old had a game won percentage total of 79.3 (92-24) and 88.2 (60-8) and 66.7 (32-16) in singles and doubles, respectively.
Paik earned an 8-0 mark in the tournament—6-0 in singles and 2-0 in doubles for a sweep in the boys U14 division. He partnered with Daniel Kang in the doubles where the former had a winning percentage of 70. 6 (24-10) and won all for sets of their matches. Paik was also unscathed in 12 sets in singles and posted a game won percentage of 83 (73-15) for a total of 79.5 (97-25).
“Malika, Seung Jin, and Coume were expected to win and they did not disappoint. In the boys U12 event, I had hoped for David (Kwon) and Anthony (Gregoire) to top their event, but never expected that they will,” Race said.
Kwon and Gregoire defeated all five teams in their group to rule the division. They posted a 3-0 victory against four squads (The Federated States of Micronesia’s 2 teams, Guam 2, and North Boys Combined)and logged a 2-1 triumph over Guam 1. They won 28 sets and lost only three for an impressive 90.3 percent and had 182 games won against 56 losses (76.5 percent).
“All these successes in the past several years speak for our program. Our players are challenged to perform better and improve their game after each tournament,” Race said.