After two action-packed days of tennis at Holua Resort, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation field of more than 200 players has narrowed to just a handful, and only two wins separate hopefuls from becoming BIIF champions.
Players who emerged from Friday’s quarterfinals victorious punched their tickets to the BIIF semifinals today, as well as the state tournament at Wailea Tennis Club and Makena Tennis Club on Maui, slated for May 1 to 3. The remaining BIIF qualifiers for the state tournament will be decided today in the consolation rounds.
All of the No. 1 seeds remain in the tournament, but a multitude of tight matches have shaped the final day to be an interesting one.
The action picks up today at 9 a.m. at Holua Resort.
As expected, overwhelming favorite from J.J. Minakata out of Hawaii Preparatory Academy breezed into the quarterfinals, winning both of his matches Friday.
As the No. 1 seed, Minakata earned a bye to the round of 16, where the HPA star beat Kamehameha’s Tolby Akiyama 6-2, 6-5, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Konawaena’s Shelton Pancho.
Pancho upset No. 8 seed Ty Yamamoto on his way to the quarterfinals, but had no answers for Minakata’s blazing serves and ability to cover the court. The HPA junior downed Pancho 6-1, 6-1, advancing to the semifinals.
Minakata is looking to earn HPA its first boys single title since 2003.
“J.J. has played phenomenal this year,” HPA boys interim head coach Colleen Patton said. “He has breezed through all his competition soundly. He is also our team captain and has really been a leader for us.”
Minakata will take on Kealakehe’s Hiro Sogi, the No. 5 seed. Sogi survived a close match against HPA’s Bryce Zeffert in the quarterfinals. In a second set tiebreaker, Sogi surpassed Zeffert. The animated Waverider let out a mighty yell as he watched the winning point hit the net.
On the other end of the bracket, No. 6 seeded Jamesen Keyes from Kohala will take on Waiakea’s Samuel Matsuura, the No. 2 seed.
Keyes knocked off No. 3 seeded Keanu Travalino in the quarterfinals. The match went into a third set tiebreaker, with Keyes edging Travalino 11-9. The Kohala freshman seemed nonchalant throughout the whole affair.
“I think as the pressure increases, he goes a little more to sleep,” joked Kohala head coach Hermann Fernandez. “He has an exceptional feel for the game of tennis. When you watch him you may think that he is lazy, and I’ll agree, sometimes he is lazy. But he has a terrific understanding of what he is doing out there.”
Both of HPA’s seeded doubles teams advanced to the semifinals Friday, setting up a conflict for Ka Makani fans.
Issac Chey and Wayne Tan will face off against Brendan Moynahan and Alec Jones in the semifinals today, assuring that at least one HPA team will represent the school in the boys doubles finals.
“It will be fun,” Jones said. “They know us best. We play them every day in practice.”
Chey and Tan had a relatively easy time reaching the semis, knocking off Waiakea’s Tevyn Gomez and Brandon Hamamoto 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Moynahan and Jones had a tougher path. The HPA duo dropped the first set of their quarterfinal matchup 2-6 to brothers Brant and Coran Yamamoto. Facing the proposal of an early exit from the tournament, the pair lost their composure, resulting in a point penalty.
“It was mentally challenging,” Jones said. “We knew that we were good enough players to win the match, but if we had stayed mad, the match would have been over real quick.”
“There were a lot of things not going our way, but we tried to put those behind us,” Moynahan said. “We were mad, but we got together and were able to calm down and relax mentally.”
With renewed focus, the HPA pair rallied to win the next two sets.
Konawaena’s top seeded duo of Anakele Apisaloma and Finn Gallagher continued their tear with convincing wins Friday. They will face the No. 5 seeded team of Michael Kawachika and Daniel Matsuura out of Waiakea.
The No. 1 seed, Michelle Uyeda, is the easy pick for the BIIF crown. The Kealakehe freshman has yet to drop a game in the tournament.
Uyeda’s opponent will be the No. 4 seed out of Kohala, Gabrielle Bartolome.
Bartolome has impressed in her three victories at Holua, but expects a tough match against an opponent who beat her in straight sets earlier this year.
“Sadly, the first time around I got smashed by her,” Bartolome said. “I expect a tough match from (Uyeda) again, but as long as I feel like I tried my hardest I will be happy.
“It’s nice to make it this far. I feel relieved because I know I have a spot in states now, but it does not mean that I will stop playing hard now.”
Bartolome is part of a Kohala squad that is having a historic showing at the BIIF finals. The Cowboys are sending a record number of athletes to the state tournament, and hope to add more today in the consolation round.
“It is attributed to the kids,” Fernandez said. “They all work so hard and this is a result of that. I could not be more proud of them.”
HPA’s Kenzie Langmade (No. 3 seed) and Waiakea’s Karyl-Lin Yamakawa (No. 2 seed) will duke it out in the other semifinal matchup. Both won their quarterfinal matches in two sets.
Patton has been ecstatic with the success of her girls squad this season, but she knows Uyeda is lurking at the end of the line.
“She is an upper echelon, but anything can happen,” Patton said. “Statistically speaking she has an edge to win it, but you never know. Everyone loves to cheer for an underdog.
“All of these kids have the passion for the sport and have the fire within. I’m happy to see all of them have the joy for tennis. It is something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”
No. 1 seeded sisters Kelly and Emily Soares faced their first resistance of the BIIF tournament in the quarterfinals against Kealakehe’s Michelle Reed and Teagan Travalino, but pulled out a 6-3, 6-4 victory. The Viking sisters had not dropped a game entering the matchup.
The Soares siblings will face the Waiakea team of Marissa Hayashi and Lindsey Kimura in the semifinals. The No. 4 seeded Lady Warriors beat Konawaena’s Nikki Kunitomo and Kira Ekstrom in the quarterfinals 6-1, 6-4 to advance.
The other side of the bracket features two teams from the west side of the island. Waveriders Mai Kobayashi and April Wong will take on Wildcats Haley Ekstrom and Rayne Izumi Baltero from rival Konawaena.