Brenden Neu of Kubasaki says he’s done all he could to prepare for next week’s Far East tennis tournament. Okinawa Christian International’s Catherine Funakoshi, on the other hand, will be on the outside looking in.

The two won their respective Okinawa Activities Council singles titles, Neu downing Kadena’s Nic Lay 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, going to three sets for the 11th time in 13 combined singles and doubles meetings. Funakoshi rallied to down Kadena’s Kristin Howard 1-6, 6-4, 8-6.

“I’m ready,” Neu said of preparing to face what some observers are calling the strongest international-school field at Far East in years. The field features reigning Far East singles champion Ken Ishihara and nationally ranked juniors player Yosuke Higashi of American School In Japan.

“Especially ASIJ, they’re really good,” Neu said of a list of Kanto Plain luminaries that also includes Juan Borga and Lane Woody of St. Mary’s. “It will take a lot of work to compete against them.”

Funakoshi expressed disappointment that OCSI would not join the 18-team Far East field next week at Kadena Air Base’s Risner Tennis Complex. “I think I would do well at Far East,” she said.

Up north at Shirako Tennis Complex along Chiba Prefecture’s east coast, international-school players ruled the day in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools with American School In Japan taking three of four event titles and capturing the boys, girls and overall school championships.

Higashi and another nationally ranked junior player, freshman Chisato Hayakawa of Sacred Heart, won the singles titles. ASIJ’s Ishihara and Luke Yamasaki won the boys doubles and Teri Cho and Lauren Sekiguchi the girls doubles crowns.

It was Higashi’s final tune-up for a Far East tournament he’s never attended. “I don’t know how good the people there are. It will be a challenge,” he said.

Hayakawa, who lost just three games this season, admitted to nerves before Tuesday’s play. “I’m really happy I got over that, and that our team placed second,” she said.

Hayakawa mirrored Funakoshi’s disappointment, saying that the Symbas, who also weren’t invited to Far East, could have held their own on Okinawa.

“I think we’d do great,” she said. “We have really good seniors and juniors, and our singles three is better than many others.”

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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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