The CNMI junior tennis players were on the right track at the start of the 2014 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji yesterday.
The 11-player CNMI Junior Tennis Team won seven of their opening day matches with boys U12 players Robbie Schorr and Ken Song leading the squad’s strong showing in Day 1. The 12-year-old Schorr was in Group B of the boys U12 singles and swept Tonga’s Sigi Palelei, 6-1, 6-3. Ken Song took the long route to his debut victory in Group A, slipping past another Tongan player, Tuapasi Afemui, in three sets. Song dropped the opener, 3-6, but came out smoking in the second, 6-0, and also dominated the tiebreaker, 10-1, to join Schorr in the win column. The boys U12 division is divided into three pools with four players in each group and they will play in the round-robin elimination to determine the playoff qualifiers. Song and Schorr’s will continue their quest in the round-robin play today when they face Tahiti’s Gillian Osmont and Kiribati’s Banien Ioera, respectively.
Still in the U12 age group, girls division, the third-ranked Malika Miyawaki and fourth-seeded Conatsu Kaga are both in Group C and also won their opening matches in contrasting fashions. Malikawa shut down Samoa’s Leafine Cronin, 6-0, 6-0, while Kaga sweated out a three-set victory over Vanuatu’s Rosalie Molballeh. Kaga fell in the first set, 3-6, but forced a rubbermatch with a tough 7-5 win in the second set and hung in there to complete the come-from-behind win with an 11-9 triumph in the last set. The CNMI’s third entry in the girls U12 singles—Asia Raulerson—lost her debut match in Group A, bowing to the fifth-ranked Eleanor Schuster of Samoa, 1-6, 0-6.
Raulerson hopes to bounce back today when she duels Vanuatu’s Marion Hymak, while Kaga and Miyawaki collide in Day 2.
In the girls U14, the CNMI’s bet and No. 1 pick Carol Lee cruised to victory after blanking fellow Commonwealth player Ami Tsukagoshi, 6, 0, 6-0, in a Group A match. The CNMI have two other entries in the girls U14 single with Tania Tan and Julia Ishikawa having mixed fortunes in their opening games. The fourth-seeded Tan was paired against American Samoa’s Lessei Perelini and needed only two sets to barge into the win column in Group C, 6-2, 6-2.
The unranked Ishikawa is in Group B and missed pulling off a stunner against the fifth-seeded Ruby Coffin of Fiji, as the host’s bet nailed a 6-0, 6-2 victory. Ishikawa tries to recover from the Day 1 loss when she challenges Samoa’s Tyra Loulanting today, while Lee and Tan guns for win No. 2 against American Samoa’s Michelle Miller and the third-seeded Emma Maucotel of Vanuatu, respectively. Tsukagoshi will also have her second game today against Fiji’s Namratta Nand.
In the boys U14 singles, the CNMI’s lone bet in the division—Luther Lizama—got off to a rousing start after hammering Fiji’s Ravneed Chand, 6-0, 6-0. Lizama is seeded fourth in the division and is in Group C along with Guam and fellow North Pacific player Mason Caldwell and Vanuatu’s Ben Pechan. Lizama squares off with Caldwell today before closing out his pool play matches tomorrow against Pechan.
In the boys U16, Colin Ramsey is playing in Group B and lost his opening match to Guam’s Sydney Gadsen, 2-6, 2-4. Ramsey aims to bounce back today when he duels the second-ranked Kevin Maukoloa of American Samoa.
Meanwhile, the Jeff Race-coached CNMI players will also compete in the boys and girls U12, U14, and U16 doubles events later this week.