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Tennis Teams Stay Hopeful

Molokai’s tennis teams exited early in last week’s Maui Interscholastic League (MIL) championships, but not before giving opposing schools a glimpse of what’s to come from this young, growing program.

“Our team is mostly comprised of sophomores and first year players,” said Luke Kikukawa, the team’s only senior. “… We really were starting to become a much bigger figure in MILs. Coaches are becoming more aware of us.”

Multiple underclassmen contributed to the Farmers’ five first-round victories, while sophomores Kaiea Dowling and Preston Pascua-Kaho`okano were named the sixth seed in the boys’ doubles competition and received a first-round bye.

Freshmen doubles teams Cassandra Ragonton and Romelyn Ragonton, and Michelle McGuire and Althea Cariaga got past the first round, as did junior duo Kea`a Davis and Oceana Madani. Sophomore Shyloh Kawa`auhau-Pua`a won in boys’ singles, and Kikukawa and Allan Maroto triumphed in boys’ doubles.

While the Farmers fell in the second round, they stayed till the end of the tournament to glean tips for next season.

“The experience and the exposure is key to have your kids be able to see the level of competition and what it takes,” said Coach Pono Asano. “We need to work hard to come back.”

Molokai has been laying the blocks for future success, physically and mentally. Asano said that while many teams head to McDonald’s during road trips, Head Coach Dean Chow insists on taking the team straight to Costco on Maui to load up on fruit, yogurt, chicken and other lean foods.

“The kids, they eat really well and they eat clean,” said Asano. “We’re trying to teach them more than about tennis. It’s about total wellness.”

For the coaches, that includes mental strength. Chow said earlier in the season that returning players like sophomore Decker Bicoy have “matured so much mentally” when it comes to shaking off setbacks. As for the first-year players, Asano added coaches first taught them to love the game.

“At the forefront you need to explain this is not your year when you become champions. This is the year when you find passion for the sport of tennis,” he explained. “ … Hopefully we can give you enough tools to have a great time, to see you next year and then we can work on greater strategy in winning games.”

Freshman Mariana Campos, who had never held a racket before the season began, now thoroughly enjoys the sport.

“We have really good coaches and we had practice almost every day,” she said. “Tennis is one of my favorite sports and I really hope I can play it for [the next three years].”

While the boys’ team will lose two effective players in Kikukawa and Christian Paul Basubas, who will be a senior but over the MIL age limit next season, the girls’ side has a solid crop of players that could return next season, and overall, Asano feels next season is packed with promise.

“If the [players] we have now return to tennis, I am super excited,” said Asano. “I really think next year is the year that we’re gonna really make waves within the MILs.”

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