Hawaii Women’s Tennis In Top 5

BYU-Hawaii Women’s Tennis Team

The BYU-Hawaii Women’s Tennis Team is No. 1. Photo from Bob Hogue

Hawaii sports fans should be extremely proud that we have such great tennis teams in our state. In fact, two of our PacWest women’s tennis teams are ranked in the top five in the nation: BYU-Hawaii at No. 1 in NCAA Division II and Hawaii Pacific University at No. 5.

I was on hand at the PacWest Championships in San Rafael, Calif., late last month when the two tennis titans squared off for the conference title for the sixth year in a row. After nearly three grueling hours in the hot Northern California sun, the Seasiders prevailed by a score of 5-2. It was their sixth consecutive conference championship and propelled both schools into the NCAA tournament.

Through it all, BYU-Hawaii head coach Dave Porter quietly moved around the Marin Tennis Club watching his team earn enough hard-fought victories to clinch the match. Three of his singles players and two of his doubles teams are undefeated this year. Annie Hwang of Taiwan, who won the tour-ney’s Most Valuable Player award and is ranked No. 1 in the nation, is one of them. The others are Sherry Liu and Yuan Jia, both of China.

Porter’s team this year is pieced together like a United Nations of tennis, with players from Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Slovakia, Tonga, Canada and the United States. They all get along great. After they won the championship match, I watched them in the hotel pool later that evening playing a game of “Marco! Polo.” From the laughs and giggles, the game obviously crosses all international boundaries.

“I look at our team and they are good! I think we have a good combination of youth and experience this year,” Porter says of his squad that starts four freshmen, a junior and a senior. “Yeah, I’m a little nervous about putting four freshmen out there, but I wouldn’t trade my team for anything.”

The next challenge for his undefeated Seasiders is the NCAA national tournament scheduled for May 16-19 in Louisville, Ky. Porter, celebrating his 20th season as head coach of BYU-Hawaii women’s tennis, has led his program to nine previous unbeaten championship seasons. In seven of those years, the Seasiders won the NCAA title, and twice they won the NAIA title. Porter is hoping that 10 is another perfect number for BYU-Hawaii.

“We’ve had teams that were better than this, and we’ve had teams that weren’t this deep,” he says.

He knows the national tournament is a huge challenge. Last year, one of his players suffered a broken foot on the eve of the quarterfinals. A year before, a player was rushed to the hospital from heat exhaustion and dehydration, but heroically made it back to the court to help in a semi-finals victory.

“When we won it in Kansas City a few years ago, we had a girl having to get her wisdom teeth pulled three days before the tournament, and she was spitting up blood between the changeovers,” he recalls. “Another girl was stung by a bee and they had to stick her in the heart in the emergency room with adrenaline, and yet she played the next day. To come through all these challenges is very special.”

Porter is hoping that this year’s road to the finals is not nearly as dramatic, but knows it will be incredibly difficult. Two other undefeated powerhouses, second-ranked Barry and third-ranked Armstrong Atlantic, along with perennial power fourth-ranked Lynn, as well as No. 5 HPU, loom on the horizon.

“I would love to see two Hawaii teams in the national finals,” he says. “We appreciate all the support from Hawaii and want to represent the state and the North Shore to the best of our ability. “