KAANAPALI- It was two pair of freshmen who led this year's Maui Interscholastic League tennis champions.
Kamehameha Schools Maui's Kylee Kato and Sarah Ikioka led their team to the school's first tennis title in history, while Maui High's Devan Kepler and Joey Baldwin led their boys team to the school's second title in four years.
The Warriors beat Lahainaluna 4-1 on Saturday at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch.
Sarah Ikioka of Kamehameha Maui capped an undefeated team season on Saturday.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
The first match was an unlikely win by seniors Kelcey Lorenzo and Brandi Silva at No. 1 doubles.
"We were a little nervous because we've never beaten them before," Lorenzo said about their 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Lunas' duo of Chantelle Baclay and Nicole Aceret. "But we thought that we could do it. I think that was the best Brandi and I have ever played before."
Kato capped an undefeated season with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Joanna Aceret at No. 2 singles.
"I think this has been a really fun year because I've known my team since I was little and we've always had a good bonding together," Kato said. "We grew up at Wailuku Juniors so we're close, since a long time ago."
Many of the Warriors players live in Central Maui and grew up playing together at the Wailuku Junior Tennis Club.
"This is probably the closest team that I've ever experienced," said Lorenzo, who played in the club with Kato, Silva and Ikioka. "I think the dynamic with the team was really good this year."
After clinching the title with a victory at No. 3 singles, Ikioka ended the match with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Melissa Taketa at No. 1 singles. Ikioka was unbeaten in team matches this season.
Following a celebratory dip in a nearby pool at the ranch, coach Nalani Cagasan said their success followed some "serendipitous events."
"We've got some hot little freshmen that I think pushed everyone else to do a little better," she said.
The Maui High boys beat King Kekaulike 4-1.
Baldwin got the ball rolling for the Sabers with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Na Alii's Aaron Manoogan at No. 1 singles.
Kepler and partner Scott Patterson followed with a win over Ray Tengan and Dillon Koga at No. 1 doubles.
Kepler, who normally plays No. 2 singles for the Sabers, switched to doubles in a game-time decision.
Kepler and Patterson were down 3-0 in the final set, but did not give up another game on their way to a 6-3 decision.
"It feels pretty good," said Kepler. "It was a close match."
The title is the second in Saber history and a sharp contrast to their previous championship team in 2010, which was led by a trio of seniors.
"The whole team has been working really hard throughout the whole season," Baldwin said. "This year has been really nice and friendly and it's fun to win."
Kepler and Baldwin both attend Kihei Charter, but are allowed to play for Maui High because the school doesn't field a tennis team.
"A lot of people are, like, 'Oh, wow, he's a freshman and winning ... but it doesn't mean anything if you're a freshman or a senior," Baldwin said. "As long as you win."
Sabers coach Ian Cohen said: "Everyone bought in to the team concept. No matter where we asked them to play they were willing to do it ... just an amazing accomplishment."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KAMEHAMEHA MAUI GIRLS 4, LAHAINALUNA 1
No. 1 singles-Sarah Ikioka, KSM, def. Melissa Taketa, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 singles-Kylee Kato, KSM, def. Joanna Aceret, 6-3, 6-2; No. 3 singles-Shenise Kaaikala, KSM, def. Lakiesha Ching, 6-1, 4-4, retired; No. 1 doubles-Brandi Silva and Kelcey Lorenzo, KSM, def. Chantell Baclay and Nicole Aceret, 6-4, 6-1; No. 2 doubles-Ezra Baccar and Maile Amine, Lahainaluna, def. Mikayla Lau and Mehana Fisher, 7-6, 6-0.
MAUI HIGH BOYS 4, KING KEKAULIKE 1
No. 1 singles-Joey Baldwin, Maui High, def. Aaron Manoogan, 6-0, 6-1; No. 2 singles-Kelly Griffith, Maui High, def. Joshua Demetropoulos, 7-6 (4), 0-6, 6-3; No. 3 singles-Meric Griffith, King Kekaulike, def. Ezekiel Cawigan, 6-3, 6-1; No.1 doubles-Devan Kepler and Scott Patterson, Maui High, def. Ray Tengan and Dillon Koga, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3; No. 2 doubles-Brandon Agpaoa-Thompson and Eric Lazo, Maui High, def. Kirk Sibonga and Logan Birch, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (6).