KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Lan Legros seemed quite content about winning all three titles in this week’s Okinawa district tennis finals. But to hear her tell it, she’s hungry for much more.
“I feel good, but it wasn’t Far East,” the Kubasaki junior said after capturing the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at Kadena’s Risner Tennis Complex.
That’s where the best players from all DODEA-Pacific schools in Japan, Okinawa and South Korea will convene, Monday through Thursday, to play in the first DODEA-Pacific Far East tennis tournament since November 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
In the tournament’s traditional format, all players must play doubles and have the option to also play either mixed doubles or singles.
Legros is slated to play doubles with her teammate Isabella Suber and mixed doubles with Jacy Fisk, and she expressed confidence that she and her partners will do well at Far East.
“I saw everybody last year” at the All-Japan Pacific East tournament at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, “so it’ll be OK,” Legros said.
Well, not exactly.
DODEA’s best from Okinawa and Japan gathered at the Pac East tournament hosted by Matthew C. Perry. But not teams from Korea, which will be seeing their Japan and Okinawa opponents for the first time in four years, and vice versa.
None of the players entered have ever played in a Far East before, which adds to the mystery, coaches said. And unlike previous years, no international-school teams are entered, which coaches also said should make the tournament more unpredictable.
“They (international schools) always seem to have our numbers,” Humphreys coach Matthew Pollock said. “It will be a tighter race this year. It’s always fun to see how it plays out, because you don’t scout every opponent. We’ll just play our tennis and see how far it gets us.”
Veteran coach Mark Lange of Perry cites a couple of players from DODEA-Japan schools as the favorites in their singles brackets: Ryunosuke Roesch of Yokota and Miu Best of E.J. King.
“He’s going to win the tournament; I don’t think there’s anybody who’s going to touch him,” Lange said of Roesch. “He’s really solid. He seems really strong mentally, like he’s done this before. I haven’t seen the kids from Okinawa or Korea, but in Japan, he’s heads and tails above everyone.”
Miu Best is one half of King’s twin sister act; she and Moa Best are juniors, who will each play singles and will team up to play doubles.
Lange feels either one of them “can win it. It just depends on the day. Miu, when she’s locked in, is tough, and Moa is a great player as well. For the doubles part, that’s a great team.”
The one doubles pair that might give them a problem is Nile C. Kinnick’s Aiisha Lashley and Alisa Walker. “They have good synergy,” Lange said. “The girls doubles will be interesting to watch.”
Then, there’s Lange’s own mixed pair of Layne Mayer and Julie Apperson, who won the All-Japan Pac East title last October.
“I think they have a shot,” Lange said. “They’ve been playing really well together. They just have to deal with the unknown.”
Korea has some players who might have a say in things, Pollock said. He cited Beckam Clites, who used to play for Humphreys until transferring to Daegu for the 2022-23 school year.
“He was trained by us,” Pollock said. “He has a good, clean swing. If he can control his swing and not overpower, he should do pretty well.”
Pollock also cited his own Sean Choo and Elliot Lee, in both singles and doubles, and Naomi Choi, “if she can keep her swing on and not run out of fuel.”
Many a coach en route to Okinawa on Sunday may be imparting the same advice that Lange is with his Samurai:
“There are a lot of factors” involved in being successful at Far East, he said. “Believing in yourself and getting hot at the right moment, that’s huge. We could have some surprises in this tournament. You never know. The players who can keep the most focus will do really well.”