There is perhaps no one who trained and prepared like Andre Ilagan to make a dream come true.
By the spring of 2017, the Farrington junior overcame all adversity, becoming the first Oahu Interscholastic Association boys tennis player to win an HHSAA state title since Jared Spiker of Kalani (2009 and ’10). Ilagan also became the first-ever state tennis champ from Farrington. With that kind of achievement, he became more than a crown prince of Kalihi tennis. He became a celebrity in the tennis community. Friendly strangers have made it a custom to ask him for a selfie photo or two.
“They come up and ask, ‘Are you Andre? Can we take a picture with you?’ I just had to get used to it,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan is on the inside track to a No. 1 seed in the upcoming HMSA/HHSAA State Tennis Championships for a second year in a row. With a 6-1, 6-0 win over Rylan Woo of Pearl City, Ilagan is the first four-time OIA champion in his own family. That’s saying something because oldest brother Anthony captured two league titles and middle brother Mark took one. Ilagan would love nothing more than to close the season with a second state championship.
“It’s my last year playing high school tennis and then I’m on to the real world to play for UH,” he said on Saturday afternoon.
He was somewhere between CORP, where the OIA tourney was played, and the site of Farrington’s senior prom. For a few scary moments at the tourney, though, all thoughts of the prom, the fourth OIA title in a row, the state tourney, were on hold. He came down with an injury during the second set against Woo. It wasn’t just a leg cramp.
“I played my normal game until it was 4-0 in the second (set). Then I felt something in my calf, but after the match I was OK. I landed awkwardly,” Ilagan said.
His day began with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Leilehua’s Jacob Padilla. Then he eliminated Zackry Ulep of Campbell 6-1, 6-0. In the semifinal round, he ousted Koby Murata of Kalani 6-2, 6-1.
Then came the title match, the strange calf pain, and then a ride home immediately after the tourney for a much-needed nap. After all, a long, fun night of prom fun awaited. It has been something of a new path for Ilagan and his coach/dad Sergio. The son continues to grind and hone his craft, but there has been a new vibration in the force.
“Dad got mellow,” Ilagan said, “ever since I signed for college.”
One Purple People
Pearl City’s Sarah Domingo isn’t given to extremes in her game, a demonstration of patience and precision, and she is not given to hyperbole for anything with her words. But the junior captured her third consecutive OIA girls title on Saturday with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Kalani’s Dale Emoto, all the while seeming just a tad bit underwhelmed by a stunning achievement.
That’s because Domingo would gladly trade in her third gold medal for a Pearl City team title. The Lady Chargers placed second in team points to Mililani, which posted its 10th girls team crown in a row.
“I already won individual twice. The whole team deserves a team championship,” Domingo said. “Losing (to Mililani) is devastating. We worked hard all season.”
It’s a year-round program — permitted because individual sports are granted more leeway than team sports in the OIA — that has bonded the players like family ever since Kyle Miyashiro became head coach in 1994.
“Sarah’s such a hard worker. She has an ability to stay in the points and set up her points better. We had a plan for her against Dale and she executed it,” Miyashiro said. “She’s very patient and doesn’t get flustered.”
Miyashiro has preached about team unity all these years, and it is ingrained in the Charger girls and boys.
“Our work ethic is important, and they’re great teammates to the end,” he added.
Domingo is the first OIA girls individual champion from Pearl City during Miyashiro’s 25 seasons. The three-peat, at least in their eyes, is a team achievement.
“I didn’t think I was going to win the first year,” Domingo said of her title during freshman year. “I think Pearl City tennis is all about teamwork, always being there for each other.”
There was one Fujimori as part of Mililani’s girls double title duo. Another Fujimori was one half of the Trojans’ boys doubles championship.
Taryn Fujimori teamed with Kylie Hull to rally past Mililani teammates Reannon Suzuki and Allena Wong 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 for the OIA girls doubles crown.
Taryn’s cousin, Hunter Fujimori, teamed with Aidan Rooney to sweep Kevin Dang and Christian Lopez of Kapolei 6-0, 6-2 in the boys doubles final.
Taryn provides the ice to Hull’s fire. Not in her words, but in Hull’s.
“Taryn is consistent at the baseline. I feel like we play well together because of our personalities,” said Hull, who is a sophomore.
Taryn Fujimori is a senior.
“I’m more of a firecracker, you could say. Aggressive and loud. Taryn is more quiet, calm and relaxed. We kind of balance each other out,” Hull said.
The two began playing as a duo this spring.
“Kylie is very aggressive at the net. She puts away a lot, so we set each other up that way, and her serve is super good,” Fujimori said.
Hunter Fujimori plays like a senior, but he’s actually just a sophomore. His chemistry with Rooney, a freshman, is fairly similar to that of his cousin Taryn with Hull.
“I miss playing with my old partner, Tobey Chang,” he said of Chang, who graduated. “With Aidan, we have chemistry from playing together four years in USTA. We try and keep it calm and serious.”
Rooney and Fujimori are basically interchangeable as a duo.
“We have a lot of communication. Hunter is better than me tennis-wise, attitude-wise. I’ve learned to calm down,” Rooney said.
They credited their head coach, Jason Agsalda.
“He coaches us really calmly,” Fujimori said.