BIIF Tennis: Yamagata, Minakata go undefeated on the way to 2nd straight titles

  • Waiakea's Maile Brilhante serves the ball in the first set of the girls BIIF championship on Saturday against Konawaena's Tayvia Yamagata. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today Hawaii Prep's Ryo Minakata returns a shot against Hilo's Gil Assi in the boys BIIF championship match at the Holua Tennis Center on Saturday.
  • Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today Konawaena's Tayvia Yamagata returns a shot against Waiakea Maile Brilhante during the girls BIIF championship match at the Holua Tennis Center in Keauhou on Saturday. Yamagata won 6-2, 7-5.

KEAUHOU — There were very few surprises during the final day of the BIIF Individual Championships at the Holua Tennis Center on Saturday. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t at least a little drama to be had.

All four No. 1 seeds won in straight sets, with Konawaena’s Tayvia Yamagata and Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Ryo Minakata completing undefeated league seasons, each claiming their second consecutive BIIF titles.

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But for Yamagata, the win did not come easily, as she battled shot-for-shot with Waiakea standout Maile Brilhante.

“It was definitely a tough match,” Yamagata said. “Maile was playing at her highest level and I tried to keep pushing through.”

The second-seeded Brilhante took an early 2-0 lead in the first set, breaking Yamagata in the first game. She had the more experienced Wildcat player running all over the court, but took a bad spill while trying to track down a shot on the stadium court in the third game.

“She started off really well and had all the momentum, but that spill changed the complexion of the set,” said her father and Waiakea head coach Bill Brilhante. “After the spill the trainer wrapped her leg but it was too tight and she could not bend down. Tayvia sensed this and started hitting a lot of drop shots and low balls.”

The tide turned quickly with Yamagata winning the next six games, taking the first set 6-2.

“Maile wanted to get the wrap changed right away but according to the rules she had to wait at least four games and by that point she was down 4-2,” Bill Brilhante said. “But that is sports. You have to expect the unexpected.”

After getting the wrap removed from her left leg, the Waiakea standout found her rhythm again, taking leads of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3. However, the momentum shifted again late in the second set, with Yamagata claiming back-to-back games to go up 5-4.

“Everyone was on the edge of their seat,” said Konawaena head coach Richard Kahalioumi. “Tayvia did a good job of staying mentally tough when the pressure started to mount late in the second set..”

Up a game, it was Yamagata who begin to battle the injury bug as she started to cramp up. This allowed Brilhante to tie the match at 5-5, but Yamagata managed to battle through the pain to take the next two games, claiming the second set 7-5 for her third BIIF title overall after winning doubles two years ago.

“I know Maile got hurt early on and then I started to cramp,” Yamagata said. “We were both fighting through pain, but it paid off for me in the end.”

The loss was a tough one to handle for Brilhante, who was drained by the end of the match.

“It will take longer for the emotional scars to heal than it will for the physical ones,” said Bill Brilhante after the match. “I would have really liked to see the match go to a third set. It could have been interesting.”

Minakata defeats Assi, again

In a rematch of last year’s BIIF championship, Minakata took down No. 2 seeded Gil Assi, of Hilo, in two sets 6-2, 6-1. Minakata credited his brother and former BIIF champion, J.J. Minakata, with helping out with strategy in finals.

“I talked to my brother before the match and he told me to not hit the ball hard and to play in control,” Ryo Minakata said. “I just told myself not to miss too much. I did well on my ground strokes, I’ll just need to work on my serving a bit for states.”

Minakata was never threatened throughout the tournament on the way to his second title. He dropped only one game heading into the championship match and he credits his play with being in better shape.

“Last year my entire body was cramping, my body was weak,” Minakata said. “This year I trained more, and was running every day in the morning and going to the gym. It was much easier for me.”

Waiakea girls cruise through doubles field

The Waiakea duo of Alicia Chun and Keilyn Kunimoto faced very little resistance on the way to winning the girls doubles title. In the championship match, the Warrior pair routed Konawaena’s Courtney Kikugawa and Jaymie Kunitomo 6-1, 6-1.

“Alicia and Keilyn played phenomenal together,” Brilhante said. “Alicia has a strong, aggressive net game. She is like dynamite in a small package and Keilyn has all the experience and maturity. She leads without even trying and the two have good chemistry together.”

Chun and Kunimoto’s biggest challenge came in the semifinals where they beat teammates Chloe Teramoto and Miya Yanagisawa. Though arguably the top two teams in the BIIF this season, the team of Teramoto and Yanagisawa was given a No. 4 seed for the tournament after Konawaena and Hilo successfully argued that their teams had played in the No. 1 doubles slot all season, according to Bill Brilhante.

This left the two Waiakea teams set to face off in the semifinals instead of the finals and Kunimoto and Chun won 6-2, 6-3.

“The statement I tried to make during the seeding meeting was if you look at Punahou, they have the best two players in the state and they were seeded No. 1 and No. 2 last year and will be seeded No. 1 and No. 2 this year,” Brilhante said. “It does not seem right to penalize them because of the strength of our team, but that is just the luck of the draw.”

Hilo duo claims boys title

Li Aki and Zachary Kamiyama never lost more than three games in a set on the way to claiming the boys doubles championship for the Viks. The Hilo duo defeated the Konawaena tandem of Ryan Ogi and Jayse Takimoto — the only team to make the finals not seeded No. 1 or 2 — 6-1, 6-3.

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The No. 2 seeded Waiakea team of Koby Kosaki and Colby Kudo fell in the quarterfinals to Hilo’s Cole Gardner and Ryan Liu in a three-set battle 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (8). Liu and Gardner then lost in the semifinals to Ogi and Takimoto in another three-set thriller 6-4, 2-6, 1-0 (11).

The HHSAA tennis tournament will be held May 3-5 at Central Oahu Regional Park.

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