Gary Ballesteros, a member of the 6.0 Mixed Doubles Team from Hawaii
© Juan Ocampo
By Matt Birch
Tucson, Ariz.--- Jesse Kanda thought his team’s season was finished after his 6.0 level mixed doubles team from Honolulu lost a match to a rival Hawaiian squad which has traditionally dominated the local scene. Kanda, the team’s captain, and his teammates did not find out that their season was still alive until they were having their "postseason" team party. The team has taken advantage of their new life and is now competing at this weekend’s USTA Adult League Mixed Doubles National Championships at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort.
Kanda explained that his team had "gotten destroyed" by their opponent, and was fairly sure that no other teams would knock off the local powerhouse. Kanda and his teammates, had gone out to celebrate the end of their season with an evening of drinking and partying.
That night, team member Gary Ballesteros sent a text message to a friend who competes for this rival team to congratulate him on winning. When his friend responded, Ballesteros then found out that this team actually lost their final match. As a result, the season was not over for Kanda’s team as they were actually the squad which advanced to the next level of competition.
Ballesteros tried to inform his teammates that they had won the tournament, but many of them did not believe him. It wasn’t until the following day when they checked the results online that the team finally believed the results.
The team members immediately began practicing more than ever, as well as spending more time together off the court.
Over the past few months the team has captured the Oahu district championship, and ultimately went on to accomplish their goal by defeating squads from the Big Island, Maui and Kauai to claim the sectional title and qualify for this weekend’s event.
"We practice really hard," Kanda said. "Some people had never played before, but the team has been together for three years now, and we have made the final push this year. We are all friends, and some of us have known each other for a long time."
Another celebration for this squad came last week as team members B.J. Sparlin and Dori Masuda got married back in Hawaii. The couple had known each other for almost 12 years and started dating a few years ago.
This weekend’s tournament is part of their honeymoon and Sparlin said that he probably would not have played tennis competitively if Dori wasn’t on the team with him. Additionally, he would love a chance to partner with her on the court in the future as a mixed doubles team.
Sparlin also explained that this team started out as a bunch of friends hitting balls at a local park for fun. Kanda then decided to put the team together officially to play competitively, and now are competing for a National Championship, just a few years later.
Friendships and celebrations are very important to this Hawaiian squad. They have partied before and after each match that they have played, for good luck. After this weekend, the team will have its actual postseason party where they hope to be celebrating a National Championship.