Tennis is an individual sport, but for the Maui Interscholastic League's players of the year, the team aspect adds special meaning.
Kihei Charter School sophomore Joey Baldwin plays for Maui High in the MIL because his school does not offer the sport. The two-time MIL boys singles champion says that adds to his experience.
"High school is a lot of fun because tennis isn't really a team sport until you get to high school," said Baldwin, The Maui News MIL Boys Player of the Year. "So that adds a lot to the sport, instead of being by yourself. It's a lot more morally supportive."
Maui High’s Joey Baldwin, who attends Kihei Charter School, advanced to the boys singles quarterfinals of the state tournament.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Kamehameha Schools Maui’s Sarah Ikioka (left) and Kylee Kato finished third in girls doubles at the state tournament.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Baldwin is joined on the boys all-star team by Shayan Shirkhodai and MacKenzie Wilson of Seabury Hall, Soha Shirai, Bud Kaiwi and Ethan Gazmen of Baldwin, Devan Kepler of Maui High and Max Linder and Jarret Pascual of Lahainaluna.
The Maui High team welcomed Baldwin with open arms.
"I have a lot of friends who go to Maui High, so I knew some of the people there," Baldwin said. "It's a good environment. They didn't care that I went to Kihei Charter."
The MIL Girls Player of the Year award is shared by Kamehameha Maui doubles partners Sarah Ikioka and Kylee Kato, who finished third in the state tournament held earlier this month at Makena Tennis Club and Wailea Tennis Club.
The Warriors' sophomores play doubles only in the championship portion of the season - they were both unbeaten for the second straight season in singles play while leading their team to the MIL crown for the second year in a row.
"We actually have a lot of fun because we are also classmates," Ikioka said. "We both have this competitive side of us. We both want to win, so when we play together we end up being a great doubles team."
Ikioka and Kato are joined on the girls all-star team by Joanna Aceret, Shania Abut, Nicole Aceret and Joanne Uzzanti of Lahainaluna and Malorie Murakami and Jessica Pressman of Baldwin.
Ikioka and Kato have been to the state final four two seasons in a row, improving on their fourth-place finish last season.
Like Baldwin, they each enjoy the team season.
"It's an individual sport, but when you play for the team it's really fun because you feel like you're part of something," Ikioka said. "Last year as freshmen, our team was supposed to win, but this year it was a lot more about the team."
Kato added: "It was so overwhelming to win (the MIL team title) again because we practice really, really hard. It was really fun playing with this team, too. We are all really close."
When the championship portion of the season arrives, the Warriors' pair picks up their partnership quickly.
"It's really fun playing with her because this past year we got really close as friends," Kato said. "That made playing with her more fun because we got a lot closer and our communication was better than last year. We were both good at setting each other up."
Baldwin will carry his award into the summer junior circuit.
"This award gives me confidence for the year," Baldwin said. "It should be fun."
Baldwin advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament and the Sabers won the MIL boys team title.
"I want our team to win again, that would be the third year in a row," Baldwin said. "We have a really good team. We lose some of our seniors, but we will have some new guys for next year. I like being part of the team, but I like competing in the championship season as well."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
* Correction: MIL tennis: Mackenzie Wilson of Seabury Hall was a member of this year's Maui Interscholastic League boys tennis All-Stars. His name was not included in a story that appeared Thursday on Page B1.
The Maui News apologizes for the error.