Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president Jeff Race is proud that both the men’s and women’s teams of the CNMI finished in the Top 4 of last week’s 2022 Pacific Nations Cup held in Lautoka, Fiji.
“Having both the men’s and women’s team reach the semifinals, with the women advancing to the final, was great to see. I know that everyone gave it their all,” he told Saipan Tribune.
The CNMI sports hall of famer and CNMI national tennis coach also thanked the many donors and supporters that made the trip of playing coach Bobby Cruz, Colin Ramsay, Isabel Heras, and Hye Jin Elliot to the South Pacific possible.
“I’d especially like to thank all those in the community who supported the team and helped make it possible for Isabel, Hye Jin, Colin, and Bobby to take part in this competition,” he added.
Both the men’s and women’s teams entered the competition unseeded, but surprised many by advancing to the Final Four. Ultimately, Heras and Elliot lost in the finals to the powerhouse team from Fiji, while Cruz and Ramsay settled for fourth place after bowing to Vanuatu in the battle for third.
Cruz said what impressed him the most during the weeklong tournament was the development of teenage netter Elliot.
“We saw a lot of growth from Hye Jin in particular. She was excited and even though she lost in the finals, she was excited because she thought it’s such a high level of tennis and was impressed how she found a new level in her game because no one on Saipan could really push her. She saw she can compete against the best and she’s excited to see what kind of improvement she can make in the next year.”
He added that the sky’s the limit to the Saipan International School student if she continues to work hard.
“I think she’s going to be an incredible player if she commits to training next year. She’s asking to hit with the boys so you can already see she’s super committed.”
For Elliot, she and Heras have nothing to be ashamed of after falling short in the finals against the host’s Ruby Coffin and Saoirse Breen.
“I’m so proud of how Isabel and I played throughout this tournament. Being unseeded we definitely pushed through and fought hard to place second.”
She thanked a boatload of people for their success in the 2022 edition of the Pacific Nations Cup, which actually returned after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.
“I am dedicating this to all the sponsors we got that supported us to be able to attend this tournament. And to my parents who pushed me into this tournament knowing that I will do well. Additionally to my teammates/mentors who gave me advice and encouraged me throughout this tournament.”
Heras, for her part, said despite the loss to Fiji, she and Elliot also came out of the tournament as better tennis players with the experience they gained from the Pacific Nations Cup.
“We’re feeling really good. Fiji played amazing so it’s a well deserved win for them. We battled hard in singles and we want to thank you for the support you gave us and for making this trip [to the Pacific Nations Cup] possible.”
Ramsay said he and Cruz will only come back with better resolve after falling short on a podium finish in Fiji.
“It’s a really tough loss for us. But we gained a lot in terms of experience and we’re ready to train and we’re ready to come back stronger. Just wanna say thank you to all who supported us. It’s such an amazing event with teams from the Pacific and everybody here.”