Wednesday | October 18, 2017
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Tennis for everyone: Bevy of Big Island juniors headed to mainland

Here’s how youth tennis is growing on the Big Island: nurture some seeds and by summer a whole bunch of promising flowers are filled with national-climbing aspirations.

Waiakea incoming sophomores Anna Oda and Keilyn Kunimoto headline the list of 14 junior players who qualified for national tournaments this summer, an unprecedented number and testament to the high-level competitive tennis on the island.

In the current United State Tennis Association Hawaii Pacific section girls 16 rankings, Oda and Kunimoto are listed at No. 1 and 2 in the state, respectively. The reward is a huge one. They both qualified for the USTA Summer National Championships in San Diego.

The prestigious tournament runs into the first week of school in August. But as the old saying goes, it’s an offer too good to refuse. For the first time, Oda and Kei-K will compete with the highest-ranked national junior players in their age division — the best of the best in the country.

As a bonus, the duo, who led Waiakea to the BIIF title last season, will play singles and partner together as a doubles team as well. As Warrior freshmen, Oda played doubles and Kunimoto singles.

“I’m super excited to get the opportunity to play against the top talent because it is a chance for me to get more experience playing different people and seeing how I can do against high-level players,” Kunimoto said. “Overall, I’m looking to gain more experience playing better players while having a great time.

“I’m also super excited to share this experience with my good friend, and I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first time Anna and I qualified for nationals, and I’m really happy we were able to qualify together.”

And what’s a summer working vacation without a few more friends?

Waiakea teammate and fellow soon-to-be sophomore Maile Brilhante and the pair were chosen for a select team to participate in the Boys and Girls 16s West Zone Team Championships, which will be held in the last week of July in Salt Lake City.

The team is comprised of six boys and six girls. Hawaii Prep’s Hayden Virtue, of Kapaau, is on the boys team. They will compete against other high-ranked junior teams from various West Zone states in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.

“There has always been a big tennis community on the Big Island,” Kunimoto said. “We have all worked really hard to get where we are now.”

Kunimoto is not alone. There are other blossoming junior players putting Hilo on the map. Following is a list of other players who qualified for national tournaments this summer:

• USTA Boys and Girls 12s West Zone Team championships, Tucson, Ariz.

Paul Brilhante (No. 4 in state rankings), Jade Brilhante (No. 6 in girls state rankings), and Kiora “Kiki” Kunimoto (No. 5). Kiki and Kei-K are first cousins.

The team coach is Aaron Tada, a Hilo High graduate.

• USTA Boys and Girls 14s West Zone Championships, Stockton, Calif.

Trinity Yamagata (Kealakekua).

• USTA Boys and Girls 14s Intersectional Team Championships, Auburn, Ala.

Waiakea freshmen Alicia Chun, Waiakea sophomore Chloe Teramoto and Kealakehe freshman Melanie Uyeda.

• USTA Boys and Girls 18s National Team Championships, Illinois and Claremont, Calif.

Hilo High senior Gil Assi (No. 5 in state ranking), 2017 Kealakehe graduate and BIIF doubles champion April Wong (No. 6 girls state ranking), Konawaena senior and BIIF singles champion Tayvia Yamagata (No. 3).

 

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