Hatgåtña, Guam – A handful of Guam’s top junior tennis players departed for Fiji Thursday evening to test their mettle against some of the best of the Pacific at the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships beginning Aug. 18 as part of the larger North Pacific team.
“The goal is really for the players to find out where they are in terms of skill level compared to the rest of the Pacific, but at the same time, we’re going there for the young players to get high-level playing experience and a chance at winning,” said Vitikaras Taufao, volunteer coach of the Guam players and one of two coaches of the North Pacific team. “A lot of the junior players who do well in these types of regional tournaments may earn scholarships to play college tennis in America and may also get called up eventually to represent the Pacific with the Pacific Oceania Davis Cup team. Competing at this tournament is a good steppingstone for the young players.”
[Photo: Tennis players and coach comprising the Guam delegation representing the North Pacific region at the upcoming Pacific Oceania Junior Championships pose for a group photo before departing to Fiji Thursday evening at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport. Front row, from left to right are, Sidney Gadsden, Vitikaras Taufao (coach), Tara Usita-Lee, and Andrew Leng. Back row from left to right are Brian Tuncap, Jr., Mason Caldwell, and Camden Camacho. Photo courtesy of Jill Espiritu.]
About 50 players from the North, East, and West Pacific island nations will begin play Monday through to Aug. 27 in six singles and six doubles divisions. The top two players from each division earn an opportunity to play in tournaments in Australia, Taufao said.
Players from Guam representing the North Pacific are 2014 Micronesian Games men’s singles gold medalist Brian Tuncap, Jr. and Sidney Gadsden in the 16-and-under boys division, Mason Caldwell and Camden Camacho in the 14-and-under boys division, Andrew Leng in the 12-and-under boys division, and Tara Usita-Lee, the lone female competitor from Guam in the 16-and-under girls division.
“Winning the Micronesian Games men’s singles gold medal in Pohnpei gave me a boost of confidence preparing for this upcoming tournament in Fiji,” said Tuncap, a junior at Father Duenas Memorial School. “With this being my first trip to Fiji to compete in the POJC after just four years playing the sport, I’m still a little nervous, but my recent success and experience in Pohnpei has really helped me get over the first-time jitters playing in an international tournament setting. Once in Fiji, I just really want to stay focused, play hard and have fun.
“All of these opportunities wouldn’t have been possible without the Tennis Academy of Guam – coaches Joe and Pete Cepeda, Coach Viti (Taufao), Coach Torgun (Smith), the Guam National Tennis Federation, my parents and family for all their support and sacrifices, and Ryan and Paul Claros from Custom Fitness,” Tuncap added.
The six players will join 14 other players as part of the North Pacific team. Other players are Robbie Schorr, Ken Song, Conatsu Kaga, Malika Miyawaki, Asia Raulerson, Luther Lizama, Julia Ishikawa, Carol Lee, Tania Tan, Ami Tsukagoshi, and Colin Ramsey from the Northern Mariana Islands, TJ Rush and Jenna Panuelo from the Federated States of Micronesia, and Ayana Rengil of Palau, the 2014 Micronesian Games women’s singles gold medalist. The players earned the right to represent the North Pacific by finishing in top spots in their respective divisions at the North Pacific Regional Championship held in June in Guam. Taufao and Jeff Race from NMI have been selected as the North Pacific team coaches.
Tournament results and other information can be found online at http://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament.aspx?id=8E366215-7D14-42A0-9287-1D3C7B6D10B8
Article from a press release.