Wednesday, March 8, 2000
DePontes ready forBy Tim Crouse
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Life is just like a tennis match for Jafra DePontes.
It has its momentum swings, good and bad. Sometimes there are unforced errors. Sometimes there are sizzling winners down the line. And through it all, there is a strategy to follow toward success.
DePontes, a Kamehameha senior, has been been ranked No. 1 or 2 in the state in her age division since she was 12.
She's used tennis to give herself a chance to succeed in a totally different area - getting a college education.
DePontes said she will sign next month to attend the University of Massachusetts on a tennis scholarship.
"Tennis is important because I need it to help me get into college," DePontes said. "I'll really have to focus on tennis because I'll have to be good or else I won't (have a scholarship)."
But before she packs for the East Coast, DePontes, who was born on the Big Island, has one final season to play at Kamehameha and national tournaments to compete in during the summer.
Since she was 12, DePontes has played in junior national tournaments all over the country. But to prepare for the new arena of collegiate tennis, she will play in college-level tournaments this summer.
As DePontes plays tougher opponents, the versatility of her game will help her.
"She can hit the short ball and the deep ball now," Kamehameha coach Les Young said. "Her deep ball was always strong and she's been working on short cross-court shots."
Although her groundstrokes are formidable, Jafra's dad, Jayme, and Young agree that mental toughness is her biggest asset.
She showed her determination in a match yesterday against Erin Hiranaga of La Pietra.
DePontes won the first set, but Hiranaga broke her serve to take a 2-1 lead in the second set.
Despite being slightly frustrated that her shots weren't going where she wanted, DePontes bore down and broke Hiranaga's service game. DePontes didn't lose another game in the match.
Young said DePontes is well-prepared for Division I tennis.
"I know at UMass she'll do very well," Young said. "She's going to be a real contributor. She might even play in the No. 1 (position)."
Young said DePontes has improved in every area the past two years. He said her serves have gotten faster and she's putting more spin on the ball.
When DePontes goes to college this fall, it will be to a place she has never seen before.
"I'm taking a risk," she admitted.
But if this life-decision is like the majority of her tennis shots, it will be a winner.
Athletes of the Week and Honor Roll will return next Wednesday. Normally, a male and female athlete are selected each week based on their performances of the previous week (because of the hiatus this week, performances from last week will also be considered next week). To nominate, call the Star-Bulletin Sports Department between 7-11 p.m. Sundays at 525-8600; fax it to 525-5497; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.