New coach seeks old results for Kadena
Seoul American senior tennis player Andrew Clark.
Stars and Stripes
This article has been corrected.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – She’s set up the Far East high school tennis tournaments the last three years. Now, for the first time, Amie Woo gets a chance to get a team ready for the event.
Woo assumes command this season of the reigning two-time tournament champions, Kadena, from Robert Bliss, one of the architects of a Panthers squad that has won six team titles, most of them since 2004, featuring a handful of singles and doubles gold medalists, including Amy Lopes, Elissa Mason and Kyle Sprow.
“I’m having to take it from a different perspective,” said Woo, who taught at Seoul American Middle School for four years and assisted the tennis teams at the high school before arriving at Kadena in 2009.
She would assist Bliss a day or two per week, but said she spent most of her time behind a computer, putting together the Far East tournament. She likens being coach and handling the 20-plus players she has to herding kittens.
“Preparing them for the tournament instead of planning it,” Woo said. “It’s a level up from Korea to here, now taking the team over, seeing how they’re doing on the courts, figuring out who is (playing) where.”
She takes over a team still plentiful in talented and experienced girls. Sisters Kristen and Alex Howard return; the former, a senior, won the 2012 girls doubles title and the latter, a junior, was second in mixed doubles along with returning junior Nicholas Lay.
Other than Lay, the boys team is “growing,” Woo said. Should the boys team develop quickly, combined with the strength of the girls team, a third straight Far East Division I team title is in the conversation, Woo said. “That’s what we’d like. That’s what we’re looking at,” she said.
Also looking strong in Girls D-I is Nile C. Kinnick, which brings back its top three singles players. Matthew C. Perry’s boys are loaded with seniors, while two-time Division II girls champion Zama American returns two players.
As for the overall individual gold medals, those could be a “foregone conclusion,” as one coach said.
Senior Chloe Gadsden of Guam High is expected back to defend her two-time girls singles championship; if successful, that would give the Gadsden family four straight, following Amber Gadsden’s title in 2010.
And there’s another Gadsden in the mix, Sidney, a freshman. Coach Juana Aguon says Sidney is competitive in Guam’s U-13 circuit, but has yet to play against the big boys. That will happen at Far East in November; Guam’s regular season takes place in March and April.
The boys singles should be a battle between American School In Japan’s nationally ranked juniors star Yosuke Higashi, defending Far East champion Kentaro Ishihara and 2011 champion Kent Shikama of St. Mary’s International.
“Ishihara was a cut above the rest” last season, Nile C. Kinnick coach Nico Hindie said. Higashi did not attend Far East, though he beat Shikama in the Kanto Plain finals last October.
“If they (Higashi and Ishihara) come together, it’s a foregone conclusion,” Hindie said, adding that to take on and beat Chloe Gadsden, “you can’t be a seasonal player. You have to play year round.”
“She has sweet ground strokes and mental toughness. Patience, get your serves in and have good ground strokes to back it up.”
Kent Shikama was incorrectly identified in a reference in an earlier version of this article.