Lahaina tennis players compete in national tournament
LAHAINA – The foundation of care and respect for the game of tennis set by the late Shigeto “Shigesh” Wakida some 60 years ago in Lahaina is now being paid forward with tremendous dividends by a new wave of leaders here on the West Side.
Former Lahainaluna High School and collegiate players Lee Killett and Jean Okada, as well as 20-year teaching professional Kaz Yamanoha, form a coaching triumvirate that has guided the current Lahaina Junior Tennis Team to national prominence.
The LJT Under 14 team of Zack Fernando, Kai Casco, Kyle Killett, Kiana Bell, Kaelyn Kato, Ailana Suehiro, Jessica Griffiths and Nikki Fernando recently returned from the Mainland after competing in the prestigious 2014 USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships at the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center in Cayce, South Carolina, on Oct. 17-19.
The Lahaina team had won the bid to the nationals by winning the U-14 3.0 Division title at the Junior Team Tennis Sectional Championships on Oahu in May.
Over 2,500 teams from all across the U.S. competed for a chance to vie for the national championships at Cayce. The LJT team thus entered the Cayce event as one of the top 32 teams in the nation featuring the 2014 season’s 250 most outstanding players.
Coach Lee explained that the USTA Junior program started up on Maui four years ago and has blossomed into a positive endeavor for youths on the Valley Isle – particularly for the kids in Lahaina.
“Getting the kids get into the sport early helps them develop physically, mentally and socially. They learn lessons on the court inside the lines that they can apply to life outside the game as well,” he said.
He added his appreciation to the USTA Nationals, USTA Hawaii and the Maui District Tennis Association that all contributed stipend funds to the LTJ team that made the trip to South Carolina possible.
“We practice at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch (voted the 2014 Hawaii Pacific Facility of the Year) and have been given the full support of owners Cynthia and John Monnier. The venue of the tournament at Cayce was a ‘Field of Dreams’ for all of the competitors,” he concluded.