Star-Bulletin Sports


Farrington senior Anthony Ilagan has become a two-time OIA boys singles champion in just four years in the sport.

Holding Court

OIA champ Anthony Ilagan of Farrington
has his sights set on a state tennis title

By Jason Kaneshiro

Anthony Ilagan might not have two tennis trophies in his home if not for a sprained ankle.

Just before starting his freshman year at Farrington High School, Ilagan turned his ankle playing basketball and spent most of the summer healing up in front of the TV.

"I had to stay home for a couple months," Ilagan recalled. "The U.S. Open or some tournament was on and I thought 'that looks pretty easy.'

"So I told my dad let's go get a racket and try to play. That got us going."

Four years later, Ilagan is a two-time Oahu Interscholastic Association boys singles champion and a contender for the state title.

"What he has accomplished being that he started so late in the sport is very outstanding, very rare," Farrington coach Ronnie Gallardo said.

Ilagan is seeded No. 3 among the boys in the Carlsmith Ball/Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tennis championship which opens tomorrow on Maui.

The boys singles matches will be held at Kalama Park while doubles is set for Makena Tennis Club. All of the girls matches will be held at Wailea Tennis Center.

The semifinals are 8 a.m. Saturday at Wailea with the finals to follow at 10 a.m.

Of the players assembled on Maui this week, Ilagan may have taken the shortest and most unconventional route to join the state's elite.

Ilagan in action

In addition to getting a late start on the court, Ilagan hasn't had any formal tennis training. He practices by hitting with his father, Sergio, and brother, Mark, daily at the Kalakaua Middle School courts.

None of them had played tennis before Anthony nudged them toward the sport.

"I didn't expect myself to be this good," Ilagan said. "Most of the kids have coaches, I just hit with my dad and my brother.

"People ask me how long have I've been playing and I always have to tell them 'about four years.' And they go, 'Are you serious?' "

Ilagan didn't take tennis seriously until he won a novice tournament the summer after his freshman year. He rose through the OIA ranks and won the league championship as a junior.

Ilagan was the second seed at last year's state tournament but lost in the quarterfinals to Kamehameha's Tyler Black, who went on to play in the tournament final.

He retained his OIA crown this spring, defeating Moanalua's Jamie Migia 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 in boys singles final, and was named the Farrington tennis team's most valuable player.

And he hopes to last two rounds longer in his second shot in the state tournament.

"Last year I had just won OIA, it was a relief and I didn't really concentrate that much (at states)," Ilagan said. "This year I'm all focused. I really want to go to the finals."

Ilagan cites his quickness as the key to his success. Instead of crashing to the net, he prefers to stay on the baseline and run down shots.

Gallardo, who is in her first year coaching at Farrington with assistant Dar Chee, said Ilagan relies on his instincts and a wicked forehand to beat more experienced players.

"He really developed his court sense," Gallardo said.

"He analyzes his opponent's weaknesses and just attacks it," she added. "He's a smart player because he's very patient when he has to be. He's very consistent. He has a banging forehand. He can pound that puppy and his placement is good."

Ilagan is among three Farrington players to qualify for the state tournament. Mark, a sophomore, is an unseeded member of the 44-player boys field. Lora Esperancilla is the Governors' lone entry in the girls tournament.

"There's not that much people who go to Farrington that play tennis," Ilagan said.

"When people ask what school you go to, it's like, 'you guys don't play tennis, you're mostly a football team.' So I try to prove to people that we can have a good tennis team."

Ilagan's play has not only put Farrington on the map in prep tennis circles, but has also earned him a bit of celebrity on the Kalihi campus.

"Every time I walk around school they're like, 'Oh, you're that kid that plays tennis,' " he said.

Ilagan plans to continue his tennis career in college and has offers from Chaminade and Brigham Young University-Hawaii, the top-ranked men's team in NCAA Division II.

While Ilagan is focused on finishing his high school career with a strong showing in the state tournament, he also hopes to generate more interest in tennis at Farrington.

Three underclassmen will make the trip to Maui to hang out with the team, get a feel for the state tournament atmosphere and perhaps one day follow Ilagan's lead.

"We'll bring them along so they can see how it is and they can practice harder and they can make it next year," Ilagan said.


The top seeds in the upcoming HHSAA State Tennis Championship:

1. Michael Wojnarowicz, St. Louis
2. Derrick Lajola, Iolani
3. Anthony Ilagan, Farrington
4. Robbie Lim, Punahou
5. Kyle Ellison, Seabury Hall
6. Dru Kanuha, Kealakehe
7. Jamie Migia, Moanalua
8. Michael Okada, Lahainaluna
9. Andy Narido, Hilo
10. Jon Farm, Punahou
11. Dillon Porter, Kahuku

1. Michelle Pautler, Hawaii Prep
2. Mariana Lee, Iolani
3. Kelly Hasegawa, Hilo
4. Chloe Bihag, Waipahu
5. Kelly Ann Nakamura, Punahou
6. Jessica Nagasako, Lahainaluna
7. Julienne Yamamoto, Moanalua
8. Nicole Sakai, Pearl City
9. Katrina Holmberg, King Kekaulike
10. Kristen Wo, Punahou
11. Jenna Mezin, Seabury Hall

1. Michael Chan/Nainoa Depontes, Kealakehe
2. Chris Iwamura/Matt Nakagawa, Punahou
3. Jeremy Perron/Joel Maeshiro, Mililani
4. Stephen Conching/Cole Millare, Kamehameha
5. Ryan Laws/Chris Farm, Punahou
6. Wil McBarnet/Kyle Niehaus, Seabury Hall
7. Arthur Phanphengdy/Siphathay Phanphengdy, Aiea
8. Christopher Colacino/Jordan Kukino, Kauai
9. Fuyuki Samejima/Shinichiro Sato, Kaiser
10. Kevin Yamauchi/Alex Matsuyama, Kealakehe
11. Keola Bollan/Michael Mayeda, Castle

1. Kim Kaloi/Heidi Kaloi, Kamehameha
2. Kareen Konishi/Tiana Lum-Tucker, Kauai
3. Allison Ishii/Jenna Ishii, Iolani
4. Melissa Tada/Jenna Umeno, Baldwin
5. Erin Seu/Adriann Gin, Punahou
6. Sarah Galon/Kim Chikazawa, Leilehua
7. Kellie Crail/Jenna Kappel, Iolani
8. Julie Sandborn/Krystina Katayama, Punahou
9. Lisa Kawamoto/Sarah Peters, Lahainaluna
10. Bette Chang/Tierra Damas, Kamehameha
11. Lellia Kanuha/Katie Ogin, Kealakehe

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