Call the 2004 Far East High School Tennis Tournament the “All Things New” contest:

¶ It’s the first time the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific-sponsored event is being held in consecutive years. The Far East Activities Council decided last year to make the tournament an annual event instead of biennial.

¶ Mixed doubles becomes part of the tournament mix. In past years, players could enter either singles or doubles but not both; now, they can choose two from singles, doubles and mixed doubles play.

¶ No longer will international schools, which have dominated the tournament play since its inception in the late 1970s, participate. FEAC decided in September to limit the field to DODDS teams, citing concerns over billeting and the availability of athletic facilities.

“It will be a more fulfilling experience,” said senior Anthony Soroka of the co-host Kadena Panthers, the team that took second overall in last year’s tournament.

He’ll play singles and boys doubles, with either Kamen Christin or Travis Dang.

Had the Far East tournament remained biennial, Soroka might have opted to play another sport, he said. That it’s an annual Far East sport has seemed to light a fire under his team and given them something to shoot for.

“This year, there’s a lot more determination, a lot more focus in every practice,” he said. “I was thinking if there wasn’t going to be a Far East, I was planning to play football. But this was the year that got me determined to take tennis seriously.”

The Panthers girls No. 1 seed, sophomore Amy Lopes, plans to enter singles and girls doubles, teaming with senior Lori Kanikkeberg.

Soroka and Kanikkeberg are especially excited about the chance to enter two draws instead of one.

“I wanted to play both [singles and doubles] last year,” Kanikkeberg said. “This year, it’s harder on the coaches to figure out who to play where.”

Added, Soroka, “I’m happy playing two events. This year, I learned a lot about doubles, improving my net play, which improved my singles play.

“I would have played three [draws], and if they had anything else to offer, I would have played four,” Soroka.

The two players offered a mixed reaction to the absence of defending boys champion St. Mary’s International and girls champion American School In Japan.

“It gives us a better chance to win, but we don’t get the better competition with international schools. I’m going to miss that,” Kanikkeberg said.

“Last year, you could have predicted” the top players in each draw, Soroka said. “This year, there will still be tough opposition but it makes the tournament more mysterious. You don’t know who’s going to be there.”

It could be James or Mary Edwards of tiny Pusan American, two of the better singles players in South Korea, or perhaps Kristia Suriben of E.J. King, who chewed up all comers in DODDS-Japan play this season.

It could very well be Lopes and Soroka, provided they bring their best game to the table.

Lopes would appear to be the favorite in girls singles since she placed fourth last year with international school players in the field. But she is taking nothing for granted.

Likewise, Kadena, playing on its home court and having finished best among DODDS schools at Far East last year, appears to be a good bet to take that final step to the top. But coach Hoa Nguyen isn’t counting on a thing.

“All my players are back and they’re better,” Nguyen said. “But we still have to worry about the other schools. The competition is still there. We really have a good chance, but I wouldn’t count out Seoul American, Kinnick, E.J. King; they have pools of good players, too.”

Soroka thinks it can happen.

“We have a really good chance,” he said. “A lot of our players have been here for awhile. We definitely have one star and we have others to fill those other spots. We have home court and we’re confident. We have a perfect opportunity.”

Far East tennis tournament

Nov. 10-12

Risner Tennis Complex, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Each team brings four female and four male players and are given a choice to enter two of the three events: singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Modified single-elimination with consolation.

Team trophies to top seven teams. Individual trophies to top four placing players in the main draw and consolation draw.

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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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