Thea makes collegiate debut

Thea Minor, right, poses with her teammates and New Mexico Military Institute tennis coach Dan O’Connell before playing in a tournament in Texas over the weekend. (Contributed Photo)

Thea Minor, right, poses with her teammates and New Mexico Military Institute tennis coach Dan O’Connell before playing in a tournament in Texas over the weekend. (Contributed Photo)

Former CNMI junior tennis player Thea Minor had her collegiate debut over the weekend, suiting up for New Mexico Military Institute in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Minor and the Broncos women’s tennis Division 1 team was scheduled to play Collin College in Plano, Texas last Friday (Saturday on Saipan) for the Super Six Invitational and another squad in Western Junior College Athletic Conference of NJCAA’s Region 5 last Sunday (results were unavailable at press time).

The Saipan Southern High School alumna said she is set to play No. 2 in singles for NMMI and partner with No. 1 singles player Lorraine Banimataku of Fiji. Federated States of Micronesia’s Amanda Hawkins and Papua New Guinea’s Lorish Puluspene complete the squad that former Pacific Oceania Junior ITF development officer Dan O’Connell coaches.

Minor is looking forward to playing in another level and is confident that despite their shorthanded roster they will still succeed because of the team’s chemistry. All four played in the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships for years.

“I am feeling challenged as we will have the opportunity to play against competitive junior colleges. I am also excited to play my first collegiate match,” the 19-year-old Minor said.

“We may not have a full team to start off this season, but I am confident we will all do well and give our best in the court, showing good results at the end of the day. Amanda may not be the best player on the team, but with her encouragement and good team spirit our coach has chosen her as captain to lead our ladies team for this season,” Minor added.

The many-time CNMI junior national team player is dedicating her collegiate debut to her supporters and fellow Commonwealth players.

“This debut is for my friends, family, and fellow players on Saipan. I would specifically dedicate this to my mom, Joy Minor, for she is the reason I am here playing. She sacrificed her time to coach and train me for the past 12 years and with her coaching and guidance, I am given the opportunity to earn a full scholarship to study and play tennis in the U.S.,” Minor said.

The former CNMI top U18 player hopes more players from the island will also have a chance to play collegiate tennis and encourages them to continue improving their skills.

“Keep playing and working because if I can reach my dream of playing college tennis you can, too. Tennis is not an easy sport to keep up with and I applaud you for still playing I know what everyone is going through trying to win every single match. There are pressures and lots of training/practice, but don’t give up because someday you will get a chance and all the hard work will be worth it,” Minor said.

After the weekend games in Texas, Minor and company will be busy in the next two months, traveling and competing in the region. From March 5 to 7, they are slated to meet Western New Mexico University, Mesa Community College, and Glendale Community College. They will also have matches from March 13 to 15 with their opponents to be announced later, while from March 30 to April 1 and 3, the Broncos will play against Mt. San Antonio and Glendale College, respectively, Then on April 7 and 21 O’Connell’s crew will duel University of the Southeast.

If the Broncos make the grade, they will be able to compete in the NJCAA National Championships scheduled for May 4 and 8 in Tucson, Arizona.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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