Kanto tennis becoming topsy-turvy
Published: October 1, 2011
All around the tennis courts Saturday at Yokota High School, the question was murmured: When was the last time Yokota’s girls beat American School In Japan in a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools tennis tie?
Beats me. Second time in less than two weeks I’d been stumped on something so historical, it either predated me or plumb evaded me (apologies to Jimmy Buffett).
Blog post interruption: Just FYI, yes, Kubasaki’s 13-0 victory over Kadena in Game 2 of the Okinawa Activities Council’s football championship series was, in fact, the first time the Panthers have ever been shut out in school history.
To find out if Yokota’s girls tennis team’s 3-2 victory Saturday over ASIJ was, in fact, an historic first, I turned to Ron Dirkse, a longtime ASIJ teacher and coach now retired and still living in Japan.
“WHAT????? Never, I would say,” Dirkse replied to me via Facebook.
To be fair, coach Jen Brown’s Mustangs are in something of a rebuilding phase. Her entire senior-laden lineup graduated, including two former Kanto and Asia-Pacific Invitational champions, powerful Max Negami (now at University of Redlands, Calif.) and crafty Kelsey Leon (Edinburgh, England), and ASIJ’s four-year girls doubles pair of Saaya Imura (Dickinson College, Pa.) and Nicole Cho (Loyola Marymount, Calif.).
Only one player in Brown’s girls lineup, Arisa Toyosaki, is a senior. And Yokota’s girls team is one of those once-in-10-years DODDS programs that are strong top to bottom, with reigning Far East girls singles runner-up Erika Ettl, No. 2 Emily Beemsterboer and three-year doubles pair Anju Yamanaka and Misa Brophy.
So, the Panthers’ girls victory over the Mustangs might on the surface be something of a surprise, except perhaps to the Panthers themselves.
But let me tell you … Brown’s boys lineup is something to behold. And it’s FAR from rebuilding mode.
Leading that pack is a sophomore transfer from Orlando, Fla., named Kentaro Ishihara. Unbeaten thus far this season, the former age-group No. 2 in the state of Florida in successive weekends demolished reigning Far East singles champion Kent Shikama of St. Mary’s International 6-0, 6-1, then survived a tight first set to undo reigning singles runner-up Arlo Taylor of Yokota 6-4, 6-0.
Trust. This is a young man you’re going to hear much about. And it should make the Kanto tournament Nov. 1 on the omni courts at Chiba Prefecture’s Shirako Tennis Complex one for the ages, given the talented singles players from Christian Academy Japan as well.
The girls race should be interesting as well. In addition to Ettl, who survived a one-set deficit against Leon’s successor as top seed Anni Takigawa, Seisen International’s girls team should make it a good run, along with Tia and Natalie Wiriyachon of Zama American, transfers who are really, really good.
I can’t wait to see it.
Shame, though, that ASIJ won’t be able to showcase its newly crafted lineup in the Far East Tournament Nov. 7-10 at Kadena Air Base’s Risner Tennis Complex.
Likewise, it’s a shame we won’t also get to see Jeff and Jae-hyun Kim, the unbeaten sophomore guidon bearers for Seoul Foreign at Far East.
A note to ASIJ’s new athletics director Brian Kelley: Please make sure Far East is on the school’s calendar for School Year 2012-13.
And a note to Seoul Foreign’s administration: I know the school is committed to the Asia-Pacific Activities Conference, but just one time, let Far East see the likes of those solid players you have. Then, we’ll see a Far East tournament. :)