HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY OF CLAREMONT-MUDD-SCRIPPS
Lahainaluna alumna Jessica Nagasako was an All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first-team choice four years in a row.
Nagasako captained the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tennis team
Jessica Nagasako wanted to be challenged academically in college. She met that challenge and graduated from Claremont McKenna College this month with a degree in government and psychology.
The 2003 Lahainaluna graduate also excelled on the tennis court for the Athenas.
Nagasako is just the second women's player in school history to be an All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first-team selection for four consecutive years. She helped the Athenas, ranked No. 14 nationally this spring, win three consecutive league titles and finish second this year.
Regarding her all-conference honors, Nagasako said, "It is impressive, but nothing outstanding compared to everything else that has happened. Going to the nationals as a team last year is so much better"
The goal this year was to return as a team, but a 5-4 loss to rival Pomona-Pitzer in the final regular-season match ended that hope.
Nagasako, who did not play doubles until college, and her partner Yassie Entekhabi were 9-3 this spring. They did qualify for the NCAA Division III nationals at Fredericksburg, Va.
"Jessica improved tremendously in her doubles play. She has become more of an aggressive player, more of an attacking style player," said Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (a group of colleges competing as one) coach Maxanne Retzlaff.
Nagasako felt being more aggressive became part of her singles game.
Unfortunately, she and Entekhabi lost in the first round of the national tournament last Friday to Stephanie Kurti and Becky Morse-Karzen from the University of Mary Washington (Va.) 6-1, 6-3.
Retzlaff, who was coaching a team for Tennis Europe visiting Hawaii, saw Nagasako play during the summer prior to her junior year and liked her style of play.
Nagasako knew Retzlaff was a college coach and began asking about the group of colleges known as the Claremont Colleges (a consortium of seven colleges).
"I visited the campus. I knew how prestigious the school was," Nagasako said. "The caliber of student was academically high and I wanted that atmosphere. I wanted to be challenged.
"My cousin (Ethan Taomae) went there and really loved it. Everyone I talked to seemed to really love it."
Since Nagasako wanted to attend a college in Southern California, the Claremont Colleges were a perfect match academically and just right for her to continue a tennis career that began at age 9.
"It was something to do after school," said Nagasako, who had tried swimming as a youngster but developed an ear problem.
She captained the tennis team at Lahainaluna and twice was selected the Lunas' female athlete of the year.
Nagasako also was a co-captain for the Athenas this year, and that entails extra responsibilities.
"The co-captains have a big part in being the liaison between the coach and the players," Retzlaff said. "They develop activities that create bonds between our members on our retreats. She has done an incredible job."
Nagasako created leadership activities for her teammates so they would have a problem to solve or need to accomplish something. She also worked on activities that developed cultural relationships.
"Each person has their own perspective and it was a matter of getting everyone together. I did enjoy the team and working with Max," Nagasako said.
"My friends on the team are the best part of my college experience, hands down. I would do it all over again."
Nagasako played all three doubles positions during her career and anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 singles. She was 11-9 this year playing No. 2 singles.
Nagasako will work for three months this summer as an intern for Sen. Daniel Akaka in Washington, D.C., while exploring career options.
"I would like to work for an international organization like UNICEF. I know I'll have to go for a masters degree, but I'm not sure when,"
» Steve Chun (Iolani '04) posted a 5-7 record as the No. 1 singles player for the 2-10 Beloit Buccaneers. The junior was 3-9 in doubles.
» Jodi Yanagida (Punahou '04), a junior at Creighton, was 7-12 playing No. 5 singles for the Bluejays. Freshman Cassie Yoneshige (Leilehua '06) was 6-12 at No. 6 singles. The pair were 7-13 in doubles play.
>>Lelia Kanuha (Kealakehe '05), a sophomore at Southern Utah, was 3-4 at No. 1 singles and 3-11 at No. 2 singles for the Thunderbirds.