Punahou sweeps all honors at state tennis tourney
WAILEA, Maui » Carlsmith Ball may be the official sponsor of the event.
But after yesterday afternoon, they may consider renaming the HHSAA state tennis championship the Punahou Invitational.
Tennis titles are nothing new for Punahou. They are almost a birthright.
But this year, the Buffanblu took it to another level. For only the second time -- and for the first since 1969 -- Punahou took home all of the first-place awards. Both singles. Both doubles. Both teams.
In each instance, the top-seeded Punahou entry delivered a victory and did so in decisive fashion. And, wouldn't you know it, the most competitive final of the day -- in boys doubles -- featured a pair of Punahou teams.
In that match, Alex Ching and Erik Shoji defeated No. 2 Hiroshi Hikida and Brad Takei 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-3.
With the other finals already concluded, the match drew several hundred spectators. But the fans generated little in the way of noise, as if wary of showing any partisanship out of consideration for the two teams from the same school.
"It's really tough to play against guys from your own team," said Ching, who closed out the match with an ace. "In order to show them respect we had to play them as hard as we can."
Shoji, his fellow junior and partner, added: "Obviously, we know each other just from practicing and playing each other every day. We had to take it up a notch."
Ching and Shoji dropped a thrilling first set requiring a tie-breaker before getting back on track to complete a Punahou sweep that included victories by Skyler Tateishi in boys singles, Kristin Lim in girls singles and, in girls doubles, Ashley Ohira and Nicole Nakaoka.
The University of Washington-bound Tateishi defeated No. 7 Matt Westmoreland of Island Pacific Academy 6-2, 6-2.
"I was fully expecting Matt to play a great game, and he did," Tateishi said of his friend and sometime hitting partner.
Because the final was held on a court that was resurfaced just a day earlier, Tateishi said he made a significant adjustment for the final.
"A new court is going to be a little slower," Tateishi explained. "If I hit a flat serve and I get it in, it's going to slow down anyway. So I decided to take a little off and go with a higher percentage serve."
Another Punahou tradition was perpetuated as Lim, a sophomore, defeated No. 5 Sara Yoshinaga of Mililani 6-1, 6-2.
Lim's two older brothers -- Robbie in 2003-04 and Mikey in 2005-06 -- won back-to-back singles titles. And now Kristin also has two titles, having combined with Ohira to win the doubles crown last year.
Both brothers are currently playing in college -- Robbie at Dartmouth and Mikey at Claremont McKenna. Mike was in attendance yesterday, nervously pacing along the spectators' area.
"He got back from school on Friday and came here to support me," Kristin Lim said. "He really didn't give me any advice other than to tell me, 'Try your hardest.' ''
Ohira and Nakaoka defeated unseeded Alyssa Shimizu and Erin Yamamoto of Mililani 6-0, 6-3.
Ohira considers herself a doubles specialist and plans to return in that role for her senior season in a bid for a third straight title.
"I enjoy having a partner," Ohira said. "Nicole helps keep me steady. She encourages me. She picks me up."
Nakaoka, meanwhile, was a newcomer to tandem play.
"I didn't know doubles until this year, so it has been a big change for me," she said. "It's been a great experience. I've totally liked it."
Another state high school tennis season comes to an end and, as usual, Punahou is all over the book. In boys competition, the Buffanblu extended their team-title run to 17, and 24 in the past 25 years. In girls play, Punahou made it five straight.
"Whenever a Punahou player takes the court against anyone from another school, something is on the line," Tateishi said. "Tradition is great, but when you go out there it's always 0-0 and there's no advantage in what school you're from."
With all due respect to Skyler Tateishi, the record-book indicates otherwise. And given the number of champion returnees, things don't look to change on the Punahou tennis front anytime soon.
CarlsmithBall/HHSAA State Championships
At Wailea Tennis Center
Skyler Tateishi, Punahou def. Matt Westmoreland, Island Pacific Academy 6-2, 6-2.
Singles third place
Kevin Caulfield, Punahou def. Nathan Nakatsuka, Kamehameha 7-5, 6-0.
Alex Ching/Erik Shoji, Punahou def. Hiroshi Hikida/Brad Takei, Punahou 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles third place
Jordan Lum/Jon Chang, Pearl City def. Gene Kurosawa/Robby Kelley, Punahou 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Kristin Lim, Punahou def. Sara Yoshinaga, Iolani 6-1, 6-2.
Singles third place
Jackie Owens, Lahainaluna def. Megan Yoshimoto, Mililani 6-0, 6-0.
Ashley Ohira/Nicole Nakaoka, Punahou def. Alyssa Shimizu/Erin Yamamoto, Mililani 6-0, 6-3.
Doubles third place
Kelsey Daguio/Kelly Domingo, Sacred Hearts def. Robyn Ing/Morissa Kahakui, Kamehameha 6-0, 6-2.