Tennis: Hilo High senior Soares captures national tourney

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BIIF tennis champion Emily Soares didn’t think she could follow her usual game plan going up against national-caliber competition.

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BIIF tennis champion Emily Soares didn’t think she could follow her usual game plan going up against national-caliber competition.

But when push came to shove she did. When Soares saw a weakness, she pounced.

The Hilo High senior won her first United States Tennis Association national 18s tournament Monday, defeating Abigail Chiu 7-6(3), 6-0 in Waipahu, Oahu.

“In the tiebreaker I was up, and she started to miss,” Soares said in a USTA release. “I was able to get the first set and then she had an injury, so I just had to get every ball back and keep her (Chiu) moving.”

Only four national selection tournament are held each year, and Soares is the first Hawaii-born player to claim an event played on the islands.

She won a BIIF singles titles as a freshman and junior, and a doubles title as a sophomore, but this event was a step up in level of play.

“They’re very consistent, they are powerful, and have a variety of shots,” Soares said of playing national competition. “We’re use to how everyone plays here, we already have a game plan. But when you play these (national) players, you just have to see how it goes throughout the whole match.”

While, of Chiu of Austin, Texas, was seeded fourth, Soares’ biggest victory came in Sunday’s semifinals when she took down Lexi Milunovich from New Canaan, Conn., 1-6, 7-6(7), 6-4. Milunovich is ranked 36th in the nation, 62 spots ahead of Soares.

“I mixed it up, hit more slices, then she missed more,” Soares said. “Once we got into the second-set tiebreaker, she got tight. We had longer rallies, I relaxed and I focused.”

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In the quarterfinals, Soares beat Latie Chang of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., 6-2, 6-3 after winning in the round of 16 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-0 against Cassie McKenzie. She bested Emily Rees 6-2, 6-1 in her opener.

Hilo’s Diana Wong, the eighth seed, reached the round of 16 and lost on the consolation semifinals.

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