WAILEA - In a sport dominated year after year by larger schools, Molokai and Kamehameha Maui each captured their first Maui Interscholastic League doubles tennis titles in each school's history on Saturday at Wailea Tennis Club.
The Warriors' Sarah Ikioka and Kylee Kato nabbed the girls title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Lahainaluna's Chanelle Baclay and Melissa Taketa.
The Farmers' Pono Chow and Kamanu Pascua took the boys doubles crown with a 6-3, 6-4 win over King Kekaulike's Dillon Koga and Ray Tengan.
Molokai’s Kamanu Pascua (left) and Pono Chow celebrate their school’s first Maui?Interscholastic League doubles title on Saturday at Wailea Tennis Center. They beat a team from King Kekaulike in the final.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
"It feels awesome," Pascua said. "First ever from Molokai and it feels good that Pono Chow and I took it this year. I feel so blessed that our hard work paid off in the end."
Pascua, a 6-foot, 240-pound senior, also plays on the football team and is not a typical tennis player.
This is also not a typical Farmers tennis team.
Molokai was 1-7 last season, but its championship duo guided the Farmers to a to 7-1 mark this season.
"At the beginning of the season we set the goal," Chow said about winning an MIL title. "I came here two times before - never even won a set - so coming here and beating every team we had, feels amazing."
Having played singles the past three years, he and Pascua joined together this season, practicing twice a day leading up to the tournament.
"I put a lot of trust in him," Chow said of his partner.
The Warriors entrusted a pair of freshmen to lead their school to its first individual title.
However, neither Ikioka nor Kato realized what they had accomplished.
"Nothing matters when you're a freshman," Kato said with a smile.
The pair, who also helped the school to its first team title two weeks ago, said the support and friendship of their team was key.
"It feels really good that we represented our school," Ikioka said.
In the singles finals, St. Anthony's Alicia Ballesteros claimed her second consecutive MIL title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Lahainaluna's Joanna Aceret.
"Joanna is a really good player," said the senior Ballesteros. "There was a lot of pressure and I wasn't practicing as much, so I was kind of nervous playing in general, but I guess I did all right."
In the boys final, Maui High freshman Joey Baldwin won the title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over teammate Devan Kepler.
"I went down and he was playing really well," Baldwin said. "I was just trying to hang in there and wait until his focus let up. That's when I went on the offense and finished the match pretty strong."
Baldwin, who attends Kihei Charter School with Kepler, practices with his fellow freshman classmate every day.
"I get bragging rights," Baldwin said.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.