Lopes-led Panthers win silver in Far East tennis
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Even in defeat, co-host Kadena had plenty of reason to be proud.
Freshman flash Amy Lopes took fourth place, the highest singles finish by a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific player, and the Panthers took the team silver medal Friday in the Far East High School Tennis Tournament.
“This is a team,” coach Hoa Nguyen said after Kadena posted its highest finish in a Far East tournament since becoming the only DODDS-Pacific school to win one in 1989. “We did it as a team.”
American School In Japan repeated its team championship of 2001 and also took the girls team title. St. Mary’s International of Tokyo claimed the boys team crown.
Leading the way for Kadena was Lopes, a 14-year-old who buzzsawed her way through the first two rounds of the girls singles bracket, but got an education Friday at the hands of ASIJ’s top two singles seeds.
Lopes stumbled in the semifinals against the Mustangs’ Amalia Nilsson 6-0, 6-3 and then lost the third-place match to Malika Hayashi 6-1, 6-3.
“I was nervous,” the disappointed Lopes said of her first experience at such a high level. “Maybe I was on the defensive a little bit.”
Still, reaching that stage was “quite an accomplishment, for Kadena High School and herself,” Nguyen said.
“I’m proud of what she did. She’s the best among DODDS [Pacific] students. She felt badly, but she tried and did her best.”
After being picked apart in the semifinal by the finesse of Nilsson, Lopes faced the powerful serve, volleys and groundstrokes of Hayashi, considered one of the hardest-hitting players in the tournament.
Hayashi broke Lopes’ serve twice to pound out the first-set victory. In the second, with teammates cheering her along the fenceline, Lopes came alive. Serving at 1-3, she survived five deuces to cut it to 2-3, then dominated the seventh game to stay within 3-4.
Lopes got no closer. Hayashi broke Lopes’ serve again in the ninth game, then put it away in the 10th game with a passing forehand shot.
“I just need to try harder, move them around more and not hit right back to them,” Lopes said. “You have to play your best from the beginning. You can’t take it easy and then turn it up.”
Lopes earned her conquerors’ respect.
“She’s a very good player,” Mustangs coach Ron Dirkse said. “She’s going to be very tough” in the next Far East tournament.
“She [Lopes] had a great variation of shots,” Nilsson said. “She serves and volleys well. That makes her tough. She has strong, deep shots, with good placement. She stuck with it. She’s strong mentally. She’s a good player.”
Osan girls doubles team grabs silver medal
The best finish by any DODDS entity came in the girls doubles, in which Amy Gordon and Su Chi Knisely tried gamely but fell 6-1, 6-4 in the finals to Alyssa Ray and Renee Lancet of ASIJ.
“We got really frustrated in the first set, but in the second set we calmed down and got more serious about it,” Gordon said.
“It was interesting to see all the international school players, how they played. If you play against better players, you become a better player.”
Joining Ray and Lancet in the winner’s circle were ASIJ’s Takashi Yoshii, who won the boys singles. Aska Dvorjak of Seisen International defeated Nilsson for the girls singles crown.
DODDS-Pacific players swept the consolation brackets. Lucky Montano of Zama American won the boys singles, Seoul American’s Megan Geiger took the girls singles and Kadena’s Ryan Nolwood and Travis Dang and Zama’s Pauline Jesusa and Cristina Eustaquio won the doubles.