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Royal Lahaina Tennis Club seeks donations to compete in national contest

By Staff | Aug 28, 2014

Royal Lahaina Tennis Club players include (from left): Kai Casco, Zack Fernando, Kyle Killett, Jessica Griffiths, Kaelyn Kato, Nikki Fernando, Kiana Bell and Ailana Suehiro.

KAANAPALI – Royal Lahaina Tennis Club recently won the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Junior Team Tennis Spring Section Championship for its 14 years of age and under 3.0 Division.

This is the second consecutive year the club qualified to compete in the national championships, which will be held Oct. 16-19 in South Carolina. The team seeks funding to help pay for the trip.

The statewide Hawaii Pacific Sectionals saw the Royal Lahaina Tennis Club go up against teams from throughout the region. The team is made up of Zack and Nikki Fernando, Kyle Killett, Kai Casco, Ailana Suehiro, Jessica Griffiths, Kiana Bell and Kaelyn Kato.

The club started only three years ago by coaches Jean Okada and Lee Killett as the Royal Lahaina Junior Tennis Program at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch.

They later joined up with Maui Junior Team Tennis League at the behest of Manny Fernando, father of two of the Royal Lahaina group.

The youngsters are benefiting from the expertise of their coaches. Okada played professional tennis and ranked in the top 200 in the world. Killett played competitively at the University of Hawaii.

There are 2,500 teams nationally participating in the USTA Junior Team Tennis League. Each region hosts a sectional championship to determine their team going to the nationals.

Royal Lahaina finished 13th nationally in 2013, and players hope for a big win this year.

Killett said, “Going to the nationals is all the kids are talking about. From their experience last year, they know they can improve on their fine showing. They have a great deal of pride and have gained in maturity and strength, which will serve them well.

“We have an extremely close-knit, highly committed group of young players, and their parents and the Royal Lahaina are very supportive. The facilities at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch are second to none, and even though the majority of our kids come from the other side of the island, we all enjoy being with one another,” Killett continued.

“When we’re not working hard on their tennis, we’re playing hard on the beach and in the warm Pacific just steps away from the courts. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Royal Lahaina Tennis Club is currently paying for its participation in the national tournament through personal funds and a travel stipend from USTA.

Donations are being accepted to help offset expenses. Contributions can be made to Giving Back Through Tennis, 110 E. Huapala St., Lahaina, HI 96761. The Federal Tax ID number is 46-3256479.

For the Oct. 16-19 national tournament, USTA will be posting daily scores and event news on its website at www.usta.com/youth-tennis/tennis/nationals/.