DODDS teams ready to break through in Far East tennis tourney
With a new coach and singles stars Josh Pierson and Olivia Anglade distant memories, the Seoul American Falcons tennis team couldn’t have been blamed if it suffered a drop-off this season.
Instead, the Falcons shined under coach Steve Boyd. The girls team went 10-0, the first unbeaten season in school history, while the boys went 7-3, losing three times to the Korean capital’s powerful international school by 3-2 scores.
The question: Can the Falcons take the next step this week in the Far East High School Tennis Tournament?
“We were just strong up and down the line,” Boyd said. “Will that translate over at Far East? I don’t know.”
Boyd and the Falcons, who finished second the last time the biennial event was held in 2001, will find out starting Wednesday on the hard courts at Kadena Air Base’s Risner Tennis Complex, which has hosted every Far East event but one since 1991. The finals are scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Eighteen teams will compete over three days in boys and girls singles and doubles.
Two years ago, Seoul American nearly became just the second Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific team to win the overall title since 1989, when Kadena became the first. A semifinal loss by Pierson kept them from the title.
Seoul American and other DODDS schools generally field one or two strong players but routinely play runner-up to the international school powers in Tokyo. Rarely has one DODDS school been so strong from top to bottom.
“Nobody here can remember us having a winning season, much less go undefeated,” Boyd said of a girls squad led by Alicia Davis, Megan Geiger and a doubles team of Melissa Paek and Geiger’s twin sister, Regan, which went 9-1 this season.
And the boys team also has much going for it, with Andrew Shin (9-1 this season) stepping into Pierson’s shoes at No. 1.
“Andrew’s got strokes and serves and he has the mental toughness,” Boyd saids. “I don’t know if Andrew is in the same class [as Pierson], the power game that Josh has. He’s a finesse player. He’ll run down everything until you make a mistake.”
Besides his own players, Boyd likes the chances of the top girls single seed from Osan American, Priscilla Umemoto — Davis’s best friend and a former teammate at Osan.
“Both those girls should be tough,” Boyd said. “Priscilla hits the ball hard. She’s a good player, but Alicia is, too.”
But Boyd and other coaches know Tokyo international schools, such as defending champion American School In Japan, won’t make it easy on their teams.
International school players hold some advantages, Kadena coach Hoa Nguyen said. They stick with tennis year-round; some even take private lessons.
Still, Nguyen has confidence in Andrew Soroka, who ran the table during the Okinawa Activities Council season, and freshman Amy Lopes.
“Amy takes private lessons and plays year-round,” her coach said. “She’ll do well for Kadena, just for that reason.”
But Nguyen says overcoming the international school juggernaut will take more than just showing up.
“It would mean playing flawless tennis, every single point, every single game, every single set, every single match,” he said. “That’s very difficult to do over a three-day tournament. You can do it for one or two days, but it’s pretty tough to do over three.”
Far East H.S. tennis tournament
When:Oct. 29-31, 2003
Where:Risner Tennis Complex, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
Format:Modified single-elimination with consolation, boys and girls singles, boys and girls doubles.
Players to watch
¶Priscilla Umemoto, Osan: Top singles seed, suffered just one loss early on in a season in which she defeated every opponent she faced.
¶Megan Geiger, Seoul American: Second seed lost just once this season.
¶Riamond Cordero, E.J. King:Won girls singles title in the DODDS-Japan tournament earlier this month at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.
¶Amy Lopes, Kadena:Freshman flash boasts serve and strokes, being touted by coach and observers as possible singles title contender.
¶Andrew Soroka, Kadena:Panthers boys top singles seed ran the table during the Okinawa Activities Council season.
¶Lucky Montano, Zama American:Went 8-3 on season, took singles title in DODDS-Japan tournament.
¶Andrew Shin, Seoul American:Handed Seoul Foreign’s Jitae Kim his only loss of the season.