BIIF tennis: Waiakea girls chasing white whale

  • JARED FUJISAKI photo
    Waiakea's Maile Brilhante, foreground, and Hilo's Casydee De Mattos play last week in a matchup of top BIIF girls players. Brilhante won 6-3, 6-3 and is one of the headliners on a deep Warriors squad.

When college tennis recruiters contact Waiakea coach Bill Brilhante – and considering the state of his girls squad, he said they contact him weekly – they never mention the letters B-I-I-F.

They only want to talk U-T-R.

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“The only real question I get asked about is their universal tennis rating,” Brilhante said. “Everything is based off that.”

College coaches may only care about rankings, but the Warriors aren’t to be ignored and now is as good a time as any to start paying attention to high school tennis.

Brilhante is in his 10th season at Waiakea, and it’s not every year he talks about trying to hunt — or at least be competitive with — Hawaii’s white whale: 16-time state champion Punahou.

“These next two years are our window,” Brilhante said last week at the tennis courts across from Hilo High.

He checked in with matches here and there in a meeting of girls teams who had combined for only one loss, but he sensed everything was under control.

“I’m real fortunate,” he said, “I have a real deep team.”

Having two singles players ranked in the top five in the Hawaii Pacific regional rankings – juniors Keilyn Kunimoto and Maile Brilhante are third and fifth, respectively – is a luxury.

There was a void left at the top of the BIIF girls hierarchy after Konawaena’s Tayvia Yamagata graduated after consecutive titles, and Kunimoto, Maile Brilhante and Kealakehe’s Melanie Uyeda are three of the prime contenders to fill it.

In one of the better matches of the season so far, Uyeda outlasted Kunimoto 0-6, 6-4 (10-8) on March 30. Last season, Brilhante beat Uyeda twice in the postseason, finishing BIIF runner-up and reaching the state semifinals.

“Anything can happen,” Bill Brilhante said. “When you look at styles, a lot of times that dictates the results.”

His bigger luxury comes in doubles play.

Alicia Chun and Chloe Teramoto are Waiakea’s No. 1 tandem. Though, as was the case against the Vikings, freshman Jade Brilhante and sophomore Maya Atwal sometimes play No. 1 as their coach vies to get the two teams the top seeds at the BIIF championships (April 25-27 at Holua), avoiding a semifinal matchup.

Chun teamed with Kunimoto to win the BIIF title last season. Waiakea’s third doubles team is freshman Haley Teramoto and Miya Yanagisawa, who teamed with Chloe Teramoto to reach states last season.

Hilo’s Jade Rivera and Alyssa Okamura had been undefeated until they ran into Chun and Teramoto and lost 6-0, 6-1, and the Waiakea pair downed Hawaii Prep’s Kayla Hollister and Megan Abe 6-0, 6-1 on Saturday.

“Waiakea is the cream of the crop,” Hilo girls coach Wayne Yamada said. “Their No. 9 or No. 10 player would by my No. 3 or 4. That’s how deep they are.”

The Warriors and Konawaena are each undefeated, and they’ll play Saturday at Waiakea with the top seed in the team finals (April 20 at Holua) at stake.

The Wildcats feature Trinity Yamagata, who could be in line for the fifth seed at BIIFs, and the doubles team of Jaymie Kunitomo and Courtney Kikugawa, the 2018 BIIF silver medalists.

The Vikings look destined for the No. 3 seed after beating Kealakehe 3-2 last Saturday. Hilo won all three doubles matches, including a 6-0, 6-0 win for No. 1 team Cami Oyama and Riza Rabanzo.

Hilo’s No. 1 singles player, Casydee De Mattos, was undefeated before losses to Maile Brilhante (6-3, 6-3) and Uyeda (6-3, 6-4), though she does own a win against Yamagata.

“I’m hoping to get one singles and two doubles teams to states,” Yamada said. “If I get two and two, that’s a bonus.”

On the boys side, Hawaii Prep’s Ryo Minakata is heavy favorite to capture a threepeat, and last Saturday Ka Makani handed the Warriors their first loss, prevailing 3-2 behind wins from Minakata, Hayden Virtue and the No. 1 doubles tandem of Zane Willman and Noah Henderson.

HPA’s only loss came in a match against Kealakehe in which Minakata missed.

“HPA has to be considered the boys favorite,” Bill Brilhante said.

On Wednesday, Hilo will travel to face Hawaii Prep, giving Vikings’ ace Luke Hamano a chance to up his competition level.

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Hilo’s boys aren’t a threat for the team title because they have to default No. 2 singles, but coach Howard Kamei said the Viks are set at No. 1 with Hamano, a junior.

“There are no weaknesses to his game,” Kamei said. “He can do it all. Serve to ground strokes to volley. Oh my.”

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