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Kadena senior and two-time defending Far East boys singles champion Kyle Sprow, above, could have his hands full facing challenges from teammate Elliot Mason, Seoul American’s Chong Lee and Daegu’s Russell Midomaru.

Kadena senior and two-time defending Far East boys singles champion Kyle Sprow, above, could have his hands full facing challenges from teammate Elliot Mason, Seoul American’s Chong Lee and Daegu’s Russell Midomaru. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Kadena senior and two-time defending Far East boys singles champion Kyle Sprow, above, could have his hands full facing challenges from teammate Elliot Mason, Seoul American’s Chong Lee and Daegu’s Russell Midomaru.

Kadena senior and two-time defending Far East boys singles champion Kyle Sprow, above, could have his hands full facing challenges from teammate Elliot Mason, Seoul American’s Chong Lee and Daegu’s Russell Midomaru. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Kadena senior and reigning Far East High School Tennis Tournament girls singles champion Elissa Mason.

Kadena senior and reigning Far East High School Tennis Tournament girls singles champion Elissa Mason. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Seoul American senior and 2007 Far East High School Tennis Tournament girls singles champion Kennedy Allen.

Seoul American senior and 2007 Far East High School Tennis Tournament girls singles champion Kennedy Allen. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa - Perhaps the most star-studded field ever in the Far East high school tennis tournament takes the court Monday at Kadena’s Risner Tennis Complex, with three former champions looking over their shoulders at a group of hungry up-and-comers:

Taking aim at 2007 girls singles champion Kennedy Allen of Seoul American and reigning champ Elissa Mason of Kadena is a group including Guam High sophomore Amber Gadsden and Yokota freshman Erika Youngdahl.Two-time boys singles champ Kyle Sprow of Kadena could find his hands full with his teammate, 2008 runner-up Elliot Mason, along with Korea sophomores Chong Lee of Seoul American and Russell Midomaru of Daegu American, among others."Kennedy is such a strong player. Amber is proven and Erika has had some success," Kadena coach Robert Bliss said. "Elissa understands that she has to play well. And Kyle has been a rock this year. He’s taken this team on his shoulders. This has been a good year for him."

Likewise, it’s been a better year for Allen, who has rebounded from losses in last year’s Far East and Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Council tournament singles finals to go unbeaten thus far.

"She’s working hard," Seoul American coach Robert Victoria said. "She’s not under any illusion that it will be a cakewalk. She’s not taking anybody lightly and she’s not taking herself too seriously."

The three former champions will compete in a Far East field with more experienced players than at any time since the tournament became an All-DODEA event in 2004. Of the 16 singles seeds, 14 have played in the Far East event in the past. All but six doubles players have seen action in the Far East tournament.

"We’ve seen these guys. They have another year of experience," Sprow said, adding that he and his teammates are not worrying about whom they might face, but how they’ll play.

"Strive for perfection and see what happens. We know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of executing our game and don’t play into their hands," Sprow said.

The three-day Far East tournament includes singles, doubles and mixed doubles play. Each team has four boys and girls on its roster, and each player may choose to play in two of the three events.

Even the newbies have some form of pedigree and success. Youngdahl last month became the first DODEA Japan player to win a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools tournament singles title.

The field this year is so deep, organizers said, that Matthew C. Perry senior Andre Bugawan, fourth in singles last year, chose to play doubles and mixed doubles. "A lot of coaches e-mailed me about that. That surprised people," tournament director Stephanie Steadman said.

Kadena and Seoul American shared the overall team title last year, but a handful of coaches feel that each could be challenged by Daegu’s boys, Yokota’s girls and Nile C. Kinnick as a whole, among others.

"Once you get into the semifinals, in all the events, not just singles, you’ll see some really good matches," Bliss said.

"It will be competitive," Victoria said. "It’s well balanced. You can’t count on anything. If somebody has an off day, anybody can take it."

Far East High School Tennis TournamentDates: Nov. 9-12Site: Risner Tennis Complex, Risner Fitness & Sports Complex, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.Host school: Kadena High School, Kadena Air BaseFormat: Boys and girls singles and doubles, mixed doubles, single-elimination with consolation brackets. Each team carries four boys and four girls on its roster; each player may choose to play two of three events.Schedule: Opening ceremony 8:30 a.m. at Risner Tennis Complex. First matches 9 a.m. Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday play begins at 8:30 a.m. Singles, doubles and mixed doubles championships Wednesday afternoon. Play finishes around 6:30 p.m. Monday, 6 p.m. Tuesday and 4 p.m. Wednesday. Thursday available for play in case of rain. Closing ceremony following conclusion of last championship match.Participating schools: Kadena, Kubasaki, Okinawa; E.J. King, Matthew C. Perry, Yokota, Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick, Robert D. Edgren, Japan; Seoul American, Osan American, Taegu American, South Korea; Guam High.Awards: Overall team championship, 8-player All-Far East teams for boys and girls, first- through third-place awards for boys and girls singles and doubles and mixed doubles.

Players to watchGirls: Kennedy Allen, Seoul American, two-time Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference champion, 2007 Far East singles champion. Elissa Mason, Kadena, three-time Okinawa Activities Council champion, reigning Far East singles champion. Erika Youngdahl, Yokota, first-ever DODEA Japan player to win a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Tournament singles title.Boys: Kyle Sprow and Elliot Mason, Kadena. Sprow three-time Okinawa Activities Council champion, defending Far East champion. Sprow and Mason 1-2 finishers in Okinawa Activities Council singles, defending Far East tournament doubles champions.SeedsBoys singles: 1, Kyle Sprow, Kadena; 2, Elliot Mason, Kadena; 3, Chong Lee, Seoul American; 4, Russell Midomaru, Daegu American; 5, Abe Nelson, Seoul American; 6, Jay Pothula, Nile C. Kinnick; 7, Matthew Hwang, Daegu American; 8, Sam Cadavos, Matthew C. Perry.Girls singles: 1, Elissa Mason, Kadena; 2, Kennedy Allen, Seoul American; 3, Amber Gadsden, Guam High; 4, Erika Youngdahl, Yokota; 5, Shannon Donegan, Nile C. Kinnick; 6, Christin Gentz, Kadena; 7, Rebekah Harwell, Matthew C. Perry; 8, Jacqueline Nguyen, Seoul American.Boys doubles: 1, Kyle Sprow and Elliot Mason, Kadena; 2, Neil Pothula and John Bogen, Nile C. Kinnick; 3, Chong Lee and Abe Nelson, Seoul American; 4, Russell Midomaru and Matthew Hwang, Daegu American; 5, Nate Rivera and Pat Perez, Nile C. Kinnick; 6, Andre Bugawan and Sam Cadavos, Matthew C. Perry; 7, Ryan Yerger and Arlo Taylor, Kadena; 8, Matt Brunhke and Josh Kim, Seoul American.Girls doubles: 1, Kennedy Allen and Jacqueline Nguyen, Seoul American; 2, Amber Gadsden and Short, Guam High; 3, Elissa Mason and Christin Gentz, Kadena; 4, Erika Youngdahl and Erika Ettl, Yokota; 5, Christine Bolduc and Arisa Hirashima, Nile C. Kinnick; 6, Tammi Ragan and Katelynn Knox, Kubasaki; 7, Carson Allen and Michelle Roh, Seoul American; 8, Isabelle Georges and Betty Lee, Daegu American.Mixed doubles: 1, Andre Bugawan and Shea Redick, Matthew C. Perry; 2, Matt Bruhnke and Carson Allen, Seoul American; 3, Nate Rivera and Arisa Hirashima, Nile C. Kinnick; 4, Ryan Yerger and Katie Mundie, Kadena; 5, Ryan Su and Christine Bolduc, Nile C. Kinnick; 6, Arlo Taylor and Minjung Kim, Kadena; 7, Kee Park and Alice Kim, Osan American; 8, Josh Kim and Michelle Roh, Seoul American.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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