Ilagan goes out a repeat state champion

Farrington senior Andre Ilagan closed his high school career with back-to-back state singles titles, becoming the first to repeat since Punahou's Kawika Lam. Photo by Johnny Wilson/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

The legacy of Hawaii high school tennis is probably not much different this year, 2018, that it has been in the past.

It’s just that Andre Ilagan put his own flavor in the mix, for sure. The Farrington senior, seeded second in the HMSA/HHSAA Tennis State Championships, capped the three-day tourney by beating rival Phuc Huynh 6-2, 7-5 (8-6) on Saturday to repeat at state champion. Ilagan brought power and precision and his left-handed delivery brought flames to his forehands and backhands.

Huynh, an ‘Iolani senior, won the boys singles title as a sophomore. Ilagan took the crown last season while both were juniors. Then Huynh beat Ilagan in a January tourney. Huynh’s quickness and precision are matched by few, and that win gave him the edge when the HHSAA committee released its seedings earlier in the week.

Ilagan didn’t mind either way. After all these years of competition locally and on the mainland, he simply moves on.

“If I’m on the mainland playing a guy who’s seeded and I’m unseeded, it doesn’t matter,” the Hawaii-bound southpaw said.

What did matter was the daily grind, hitting the courts consistently from a young age, aiming to catch his older brothers. In the end, no matter how good his brothers were or how much his dad wanted him to succeed, Ilagan wanted it more than anyone. He drove Huynh left, right, backwards — and Huynh still played a solid match.

“He’s an unbelievable player. I thought I played good ball,” said Huynh, who will take his racquets to UC Irvine next season.

Ilagan will play for Hawaii next season and Huynh for the University of San Francisco.

“I’m sad because I lost, but in the end, we both played good tennis and we have college to look forward to,” Huynh said. “It’s always been back and forth (against Ilagan). The first set, I was down pretty early. He was making a lot more plays than I was. The second set, he did the same, but I stayed close to him.”

The second set was a change in pace once Ilagan went up 2-0.

“(Huynh) got more aggressive,” he said.

The set went to a tiebreaker and Huynh had a 4-2 lead. Then Ilagan roared back.

Katreina Corpuz, the defending girls singles champion, gave Punahou teammate Alyssia Fossorier all she could handle before succumbing 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. Fossorier did what athletes and teams in the ILH often do. She got better and rose to Corpuz’s level, and beat her in the ILH final — though Corpuz was sick with strep throat — and again today in an exhausting battle. The match began under an overcast sky at 8:30 a.m., but their battle extended for more than 3 hours, finishing at 11:40 a.m. in scorching heat.

“I know she was sick at ILH, but she still gave a hard fight,” Fossorier said. “Today, too. I knew that she was going to come with a strong game. I just knew I had to be at the top of my game.”

Fossorier will play at UC Irvine next season.

Corpuz tried, but couldn’t contain her tears as friends embraced her with leis.

“I was really honored to be out here and be able to play for four years. It’s been an extremely good run,” she said. “I came out prepared, but Alyssia’s really good, so props to her. It was a really good fight.”

Brothers Sean and Scott Yamamoto were seeded fourth, then took the boys doubles crown. Sean is a senior and Scott is a freshman. Sean’s satisfaction was immeasurable.

“It feels fulfilling to win with my brother and do so well. We tried to keep the tension low by cracking jokes,” Scott said. “It’s been great for our relationship.”

They pulled off the biggest upset, at least on paper, with a semifinal win over No. 1 Jordan Azuma and Joey Hu in the semifinals, another all-Raiders match.

“We knew them and they knew us. We were serving and return well, keeping errors down,” said Scott, a freshman.

The girls duo of Betsy Wo and Clarise Huang from Punahou captured the doubles title. Like the Yamamoto brothers, Wo and Huang were seeded fourth. They swept Sabrina Loui and Gabriela Siaosi of ‘Iolani 6-2, 6-3.

Despite their seeding, confidence was at a maximum because they were defending state champions. They were upset in the ILH tournament.

“That’s what changed for us,” said Huang, a junior. “We were really aggressive.”

“That’s when we do our best,” Wo said. “Setting each other up.”

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