BIIF tennis: Waiakea cruises to girls title, battles for boys crown

  • Waiakea freshman Maika Nucci (right) shakes hands with HPA's Noah Henderson after their match on Saturday at Holua. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • Waiakea senior Lucas Chun plays in a doubles match against Hawaii Prep on Saturday at Holua. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaii Prep's Ryo Minakata (left) shakes hands with his doubles partner Calvin Trang on Saturday at Holua. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • Waiakea's Keilyn Kunimoto serves in a doubles match against Hawaii Prep on Saturday at Holua. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • Waiakea's boys and girls teams cheer at center court at Holua after clinching both the boys and girls team title on Saturday. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)

KEAUHOU — With the afternoon clouds rolling in, Waiakea head coach Bill Brilhante clapped his hands and delivered his motivational slogan with a grin.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Brilhante said. “Especially this time of year.”

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That’s tennis, after all. Sometimes you simply need the ball to bounce your way to get out of a jam.

Luckily for Brilhante, his Warriors were plenty good on Saturday at Holua Tennis Center, only needing a sprinkle of good fortune to secure both the BIIF boys and girls team titles.

It was the first clean sweep for a Big Island program since 2016 (Konawaena) and just the second in 10 years. Kealakehe also accomplished the feat in 2012.

The girls team title was an exclamation mark on a third consecutive undefeated season for Waiakea. The Warriors overwhelmed Parker and then Konawaena 5-0.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of,” said Maile Brilhante, one of Waiakea’s team captains. “I’m proud of this team and how they fought.”

Waiakea only dropped two games in its first round matchup against Parker, and all the wins against Konawaena came in straight sets.

“At the beginning of the season we set some goals, and winning the team championship was certainly one of those,” Bill Brilhante said. “It’s a progression and we want to build on the success we are having now.”

With a 4-0 edge and the team title already in the bag, the final girls doubles match of the day still drew a large crowd of Waiakea Blue. The No. 3 doubles pair of Keilyn Kunimoto and Maya Atwal eventually pulled out the thrilling win over Konawaena’s Trinity Yamagata and Kai Kunitomo, 6-3, 7-6 (1).

“The girls were not complacent. They wanted to seal the 5-0 win and cheered on their teammates like it was all on the line,” Bill Brilhante said. “They have strived for perfection, and for me, as a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Maile Brilhante — who played the No. 1 singles spot against Parker and in the No. 2 doubles pairing with her sister, Jade, versus Konawaena — said that the team aspect of the weekend adds a little extra incentive in a sport that often focuses more on individual triumphs.

“It’s different and a lot of fun to play for your team,” Maile Brilhante said. “Everyone is really close on this team and having your teammates there, cheering for you gives it that extra feeling of importance.”

While the girls title came as no surprise, the boys championship was quite the opposite. Facing a Hawaii Prep squad that had lost just once all season, some clutch performances — most notably from freshmen Bruin Yomono and Maika Nucci — helped the Warriors pick up their first boys title since 2009.

“It was a tall task, but our freshmen really came through,” Bill Brilhante said.

Waiakea had to sweat it out, sneaking past Konawaena 3-2 in the semis before pulling the upset against the defending champion Ka Makani by the same score.

Appropriately, the main stadium court saw the match that truly tipped the scales. Yomono and his senior partner Lucas Chun took on the Hawaii Prep pair of Calvin Trang and Ryo Minakata, who is the two-time BIIF boys individual champion.

“It was surreal, honestly. We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Chun said. “We just wanted to go out there and have fun. Then we won the first set 6-1 and started thinking, ‘Wow, we could do this.’ It’s a nice way to finish my senior year.”

The Warrior duo won the match 6-1, 6-3. As victory became imminent, Yomono let out some emotion on the court, yelling and clenching his fist after big points.

“It was so cool. That got me hyped,” Chun said with a laugh. “He’s just a freshman, but he knows the ropes. Hopefully he can apply this win to the rest of his career.”

Brilhante tipped his hat to Chun for leading the way.

“His senior leadership came through. He played and led very well,” the veteran Waiakea skipper said. “Ryo played awesome too, but covering the whole court in doubles was just too hard.”

The doubles match tipped the scales in Waiakea’s favor, but it was the singles win by Nucci that turned out to be the clincher. After losing a marathon three-set match against Konawaena’s Christian Actouka (7-6 (0), 1-6, 10-7) earlier in the day, the freshman sensation dug deep for the 6-2, 6-1 win over HPA’s Noah Henderson. Waiakea’s Koby Kosaki and Colby Kudo also contributed in the victory, taking their No. 3 doubles matchup.

The team championships are just the beginning of what is the final gauntlet of tennis the next few weeks. Holua will host the individual championships next week from Thursday-Saturday, and the HHSAA state championships will be held at Mauna Lani Sports & Fitness Club from May 9-11.

While much is still to be sorted out, Waiakea has made no secret of its aspirations to compete for a state title. Playing at home on the Big Island will certainly be an edge.

“This is just the beginning,” Bill Brilhante said. “Stranger things have happened. (Sixteen-time defending champion) Punahou is the prohibitive favorite, and even to get close to them would be an accomplishment. The girls believe they can be competitive at the state level, but you have to dot your I’s and cross all your T’s to find success there.”

—-

GIRLS

Semifinals

Waiakea 5, Parker 0

Malia Brilhante (WAI) def. Anna Leonard (PARK) 6-0, 6-0

Keilyn Kunimoto (WAI) def. Hana-Lei Ji (PARK) 6-0, 6-0

Maya Atwal/Jade Brilhante (WAI) def. Kathryn Carey/Jenna Blevins (PARK) 6-0, 6-1

Chloe Tera Moto/Miya Yanagisawa (WAI) def. Jamie Saito/Zoe Spikerman (PARK) 6-0, 6-0

Haley Teramoto/Lisa Miyazaki (WAI) def. Emma Choi/Eloise Robertson (PARK) 6-1, 6-0

Konawaena 3, Hilo 2

Jade Rivera (HILO) def. Jordan Buskirk (KONA) 6-0, 6-0

Trinity Yamagata (KONA) def. Jennifer Kamimura (HILO) 6-0, 6-1

Cami Oyama/Riza Rabanzo (HILO) def. Kai Kunitomo/Mako Minoda (KONA) 6-1, 6-1

Courtney Kikugawa/Jaymie Kunitomo (KONA) def. Casydee De Mattos/Alyssa Okamura (HILO) 6-3, 6-1

Megan Baguso/Caileen Teramoto (KONA) def. Siena Mizuno/Lauren Sugai 6-4, 6-2

Championship

Waiakea 5, Konawaena 0

Haley Teramoto (WAI) def. Jordan Buskirk (KONA) 6-0, 6-0

Miya Yanagisawa (WAI) def. Miwa Johnson (KONA) 6-0, 6-1

Chloe Teramoto/Alicia Chun (WAI) def. Courtney Kikugawa/Jaymie Kunitomo 6-3, 6-2

Jade Brilhante/Maile Brilhante (WAI) def. Megan Baguso/Caileen Teramoto (KONA) 6-1, 6-2

Keilyn Kunimoto/Maya Atwal (WAI) def. Trinity Yamagata/Kai Kunitomo (KONA) 6-3, 7-6 (1)

BOYS

Semifinals

HPA 4, Kealakehe 1

Hayden Virtue (HPA) def. Joetel Genaria (KEAL) 6-0, 6-0

Noah Henderson (HPA) def. Noa Rother (KEAL) 6-4, 7-6 (7)

Rio Minakata/Calvin Trang (HPA) def. Samuel Chae/Austin Randerson (KEAL) 6-0, 6-1

Vyas Hale/Spencer Mandaguit (KEAL) def. Bobby Jin/Shuntaro Hori (HPA) 6-0, 6-2

Zane Willman/Ethan Goore (HPA) def. Shane Arakaki/Ludwig Remo (KEAL) 6-0, 6-0

Waiakea 3, Konawaena 2

Christian Actouka (KONA) def. Maika Nucci (WAI) 7-6, 1-6, 10-7

Jadyn Brown (KONA) def. John Chen (WAI) 7-6(8), 6-3

Lucas Chun/Bruin Yomono (WAI) def. David Rey Presiados/Marc Basa (KONA) 6-1, 6-1

Conner Yoshimoto/Caleb Nakano (WAI) def. Tanner Nakamoto/Cade Taniyama (KONA) 6-1,6-0

Koby Kosaki/Colby Kudo (WAI) def. Hunter Tavares/Douglas Ii 6-3, 6-0

Championship

Waiakea 3, HPA 2

Zane Willman (HPA) def. John Chen (WAI) 6-3, 6-0

Maika Nucci (WAI) def. Noah Henderson (HPA) 6-2, 6-1

Lucas Chun/Bruin Yomono (WAI) def. Rio Minakata/Calvin Trang (HPA) 6-1, 6-3

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Hayden Virtue/Ethan Goore (HPA) def. Conner Yoshimoto/Caleb Nakano 6-0, 6-3

Koby Kosaki/Colby Kudo (WAI) def. Bobby Jin/Shuntaro Hori (HPA) 6-2, 6-0

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