By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIPAHU — Digging herself out of deep holes all morning long, Waiakea sophomore Sarah Dvorak took mighty swings and charged back, but eventually ran out of comebacks against a familiar foe, who happens to be a good friend.
For the second straight year, Mililani’s Alyssa Tobita, the No. 2 seed, defeated Dvorak at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tennis championships Saturday at sun-filled Central Oahu Regional Park, prevailing 6-4 and 7-5 for the girls singles title.
“I just needed a couple more points and it would have been split,” Dvorak said about her second set. “I had a lot of unforced errors, especially in the first set. My serve was pretty weak. That’s the strength of my game.
“Playing Alyssa is like playing against a wall. She hits everything back. You’ve got to be patient with her. My strategy was to be aggressive and have consistency.”
The four semifinalists — Waimea’s Lani-Rae Green and Le Jardin’s Cori Cummings — are all sophomores. Dvorak and Tobita see each other often on the USTA Junior Circuit. They’ll next meet in June in the Nike sectionals at CORP.
“I know what’s coming. Next year, it’ll likely be me and her again at states,” Dvorak said. “It’s hard playing a friend. I’m happy for her. But I still wanted to win.”
Tobita felt the same way.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “She and I are good friends. She worked hard for it, too. Every year it’s going to be who plays better that day. It’s always really tough playing her. It’s been up and up our whole lives since we were 10 years old.
“The key was being consistent. When she came back after I was up 5-0, I got a little nervous. I know I needed to stay consistent. My strength is my consistency and my variety of shots. I can hit flat, slice, hit a drop or lob. I don’t like to go for too much. I know I can stick it out for key matches. I try to use my stamina and mix up my variety of shots.”
The top-seeded Dvorak, a left-hander with power as her best friend, trailed 3-0 in the first set and 5-0 in the second, storming back behind her big serve, stinging forehand to the corners and fastballs from her deep-driving two-handed backhand.
In the second set, Dvorak got her first serve in and gunned it, forcing Tobita, a right-hander, to scramble and commit four straight unforced errors, making it 5-5, swinging momentum to the 5-foot-5 Warrior, and increasing the match’s drama.
But Tobita, who is 5-3 in shoes, centers her play around patience. Sometimes, she would just stab a forehand or slice a backhand to the middle of the court to keep the ball in play. She doesn’t hit hard, but waits for an opportunity to find a hole, like in the next game.
Tobita served and Dvorak whipped the ball on a return and raced to the net. The steady Trojan volleyed a passing shot that landed safely inside of the line. Then Tobita held serve and grabbed a 6-5 lead, after Dvorak made three unforced errors, hitting into the net twice and cranking a backhand long.
The theme of unforced errors and patience came into play in the last game. Dvorak was serving. She got all of her first serves in, but it wasn’t enough.
Dvorak charged the net twice and Tobita volleyed shots past her. That sandwiched a long forehand for an unforced error. It was 40-0 and Dvorak was in trouble.
Fighting to extend her season, Dvorak blasted a couple of deep balls during a pair of rallies, and each time Tobita made unforced errors. On her last serve, a long rally tested the patience and ball-control of both. And the match ended when a liner was hit into the net, another unforced error on Dvorak’s part.
She was emotional after it was all over. Luckily, she had a lot of teammates and friends to console her. But Dvorak knew the one thing she could take to heart is she went down swinging.
“When I was down 5-love, I felt it was not over and it’s anybody’s game,” Dvorak said. “I felt like I didn’t have much to lose and I wanted to leave everything on the court.”