Hard Hitters and Rising Stars
Dustin Miyakawa, ISC-Tennis Rep
Updated: Aug. 27, 2001

Now that school is in full swing, the Iolani Boy's Tennis Team is hitting the courts again. For the past week, sixteen players started to compete for the twelve slots, which will make up the 2001 Iolani Boys Junior Varsity Tennis Team, and the competition is fierce.

Twin brothers Daniel and Michael Igawa, Jon Okada, Eric Cunningham and Michael Okai are some of the rising stars from last year's Intermediate championship team. They will join forces with David Kobayashi, Nicholas Nishiura and other members of last year's Junior Varsity Team, who placed third overall.

Even with such a strong lineup, does the new JV team have what it takes to compete with the dominating Punahou and Kamehameha teams? Let's consider the factors. Three quarters of the team consist of last year's Intermediate team.

Though they are the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Champions, they have no experience in the JV level. They also have a new coach to work with. And a certain controversy surrounds the ever-popular Torin Ching. What are their thoughts on these new factors? What are their stronger points? And most importantly, even with such a deep team to attack with, is that enough to bring home the "W?"(Win).

The new coach, affectionately dubbed "Coach Mike," has been coaching at Mid-Pacific for the past seven years. Everyone on the team seems to like him. Freshman Eric Cunningham remarks, "He's interesting, and he seems very friendly. He helped me with my volleys a lot."

Sophomore David Kobyashi also had some help from the new coach. David remarks, "He's pretty good, though he doesn't know the team like Chris (last year's coach) did. He helped me on my serve though, and that's something Chris didn't do." Apparently the new coach has earned the respect of the team.

A question that seems to be on everyone's mind is can the Intermediate boys pull off another championship? There is a wide range of opinions on this issue. Kobayashi's thoughts were simply, "No, the Punahou team is just too good. We still have lots of strong players like Eric, Jon and the Igawas', but we don't have any Torin Ching or Jon Lo players; and right now, that's what we need."

Eric Cunningham seemed to have a different angle, remarking, "We always have a shot at a championship. Punahou is good, but nobody's invincible."

However, Cunningham also expressed some doubts concerning winning the ILH title.

Sophomore Nicholas Nishiura, however, takes an entirely different standpoint, saying, "Well, the Intermediate guys coming up are pretty good, especially the Igawa brothers, Jon Okada, Eric Cunningham. Bring it on, I say."

Nishiura brings up a good point, the Iolani team does have a number of excellent, young, rising stars. Cunningham says, "Michael Okai and Jon Okada are both really good. If the other teams throw someone really good at first singles, Michael can beat the second singles guy. Or if they put someone really good at second, Jon can take first."

Kobayashi also thinks second singles is an important match. He says, "No matter what they do against us, if we put Michael Okai in second singles, he will kill somebody."

The entire team feels that they can put out eight strong players and compete fiercely in every match, instead of having three or four monster players, and having the rest of the team mediocre.

Jon Okada, Michael Okai, David Kobayashi, Michael and Daniel Igawa, Tomas Robillard, Eric Cunningham, John Hino; all exceptional players, and all experienced, mentally and physically tough weapons that Iolani can and will attack with.

There is one name, a name that conjures up images of monster serves, huge ground strokes and volleys that leave trails of smoke on the court, that doesn't appear on the roster.

That name is Torin Ching. Ching was the last year's Intermediate idol, and though he was not eligible to play, he was expected to be the top player for 2001's JV team.

Has created quite a controversy not showing up for practice. Ching remarks, "I know they need me, but I'm going for Varsity. There's a lot more competition in Varsity, and I also want to make sure I get good grades for the first quarter of school."

Ching promised to show up to Monday's practice though, just to see how the team is progressing. Everyone knows that Ching's absence will greatly set back the team, but it must be so, and unfortunately, the Junior Varsity team will roll into the new season without Ching onboard.

So will the Junior Varsity Team be able to compete this year despite all of the setbacks and awkward hurdles to conquer? Can Jon Okada unleash his monster thermonuclear serve and defeat his first singles competitor?

Can the Igawa brothers triumph over the tough doubles teams? Will Michael Okai really kill someone? And most importantly, is Iolani competitive enough to be in the race for the ILH Championship? There's only one way to find out.