Will No. 3 Be the Charm for Maui Magic Senior Team?
It’s no secret there’s nothing easy about winning a national championship in any sport at any level or age. Athletic success demands consistent practice and painstaking error correction, learning from failures along the way.
The seasoned Maui Magic senior women’s 7.0 tennis team has always depended on plenty of hard work and positive team chemistry in order to persevere in this challenging sport.
There were no lucky charms used or incantations (nor jinxes or hexes) invoked when Maui Magic claimed its trifecta, successfully earning its third straight USTA Hawaii Pacific Sectional Championship title last November in Honolulu.
Easily rolling over perennial winners from Honolulu and Hilo, Jane Sakakihara’s Maui Magic 65-and-over team earned state bragging rights and its third consecutive opportunity to compete in early February 2019 for the USTA senior women’s national championship banner.
Maui Magic Captain Sakakihara said her Maui Magic team is continuing to hone their skills and are counting the days until they take to the Surprise, Arizona, courts to represent the Hawai‘i-Pacific region against the eight other regional teams that comprise USTA 65-and-over national bracket.
If Maui Magic wins, it will be Maui Nui’s first national tennis championship title at any level.
“In 2016, we finished seventh in the nation,” Sakakihara said. “Last year, we finished fifth. Our players are nearly the same as last year team with several talented additions. We like our chances.”
Maui Magic own a solid legacy in Hawai‘i tennis with the same team name and same team captain for 14 years. Sakakihara and daughter Lori both are standout Wells Park players. Lori also played junior tennis at Wells, high school tennis at Baldwin High and then competed at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo for four years. Now, Lori’s kids are Wailuku junior tennis players and she volunteers, also playing on a 4.5-level league team.
Over the years, Jane has stayed the course with Maui tennis with involvement in both the junior and adult women’s program. She continues to serve as a Maui District Tennis League coordinator. On the side, she teaches GED students basic mathematics at the local DOE community school for adults.
In Jane’s kitchen, two sides of her giant refrigerator are plastered with 14 years’ worth of Maui Magic team photos.
She is legendary captain with 100—give or take—different players on year-round rosters across three different age groups. Most recently, her senior Maui Magic teams have been the most successful at sectionals and nationals.
Her current Maui Magic roster is a mix of veterans from Magic’s earlier years and newcomers for the past five years—Hope Busto-Keyes, Cathy Haines, Debra Lordan, Susan Miller, Diane Nagasaka, Joanne Quintos, Bev Lindner Rivers and Leslie Wilshusen.
At 73, Sakakihara is still listed on the player roster with veterans Diantha Mackwell and Janie King, members of her inaugural Magic team.
“Like Jane says, ‘tennis keeps us young,’” said Quintos, who’s also been to nationals several times with younger Maui Magic squads. “We’re all healthy and looking forward to playing again. It feels like something good is going to happen this year. You never know.”
Having played tennis since she was in high school, retired high school English teacher King has played on teams on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island and Maui. She knows what winning looks like both home and away.
“At this stage, we know what to expect and know what to do to get this done,” said Kula resident King. “We all enjoy playing, and yet all of us are serious about winning at the highest levels.”
“Consistency and patience are what it’ll take to win against the best mainland players,” said Nagasaka of Ha‘ikū, who joined Maui Magic in 2008. “We’ve building on our past successes. We’re well-prepared for this year in Surprise.”
Sakakihara said she’s never had so many tall (hovering around 5 feet 8 inches), talented athletes; everyone’s at least 65, as the league division requires, nearly a third are 70-something. All are capable, all-court players.
Most of these teammates carefully juggle their tennis schedules, still busy with family, professional commitments, running businesses, continuing careers and caring for grandkids.
“Even when we‘re busy with our lives, our tennis is on our minds,” said Lindner Rivers of Wailea. “Our families are involved in our tennis. They enjoy competitive tennis, too.”
It was a welcome challenge for Haines and Busto-Keyes to be invited to Maui Magic as somewhat newcomers. Haines had previously played on Sakakihara’s other teams in the past. Major knee surgeries sidelined her for five years, which gave Haines time to recuperate and finally get “back in the saddle” playing tennis.
“It’s been great having a friendly, patient, yet competitive team environment to rebuild my game and stamina,” Pukalani resident Haines said. “At practices, our teammates really challenge and push each other.”
Most of Sakakihara’s players have a decade or more experience playing in USTA leagues and tournaments. They drive all over Maui island to practice and play—in the mornings in Kīhei, Wailea, Wailuku and evenings in Kahului and Kula. Rain is the only obstacle. A handful train with professional coaches.
“I’m proud to be on Jane’s team—we’ve paid our dues,” said Wilshusen of Wailea. “Our success is no fluke; we’re on the tennis court everyday we can—we’ve got battle scars to prove it.”
Busto-Keyes of Kīhei, a recently retired physicians’ assistant, is the only true newcomer to tennis and the most recent addition to the Maui Magic team. With a 3.0 rating, Busto-Keyes has partnered withMiller, the lone 4.0 player. In the course of the league, Busto-Keyes said all the lessons, practices and playing are starting to pay off.
“I’m grateful to all my partners, in particular, Susan Miller” Busto-Keyes said. “It’s given me a lot of confidence. Everyone’s contributed to progress.”
Playing in the Arizona desert weather is much like playing in Upcountry Maui, according to Lordan of Makawao, Pacific Media Group editor and a Maui Magic veteran. “It’s chilly in the morning and warm in the afternoon—just like Surprise.”
“We’ve learned from the last two years at nationals.” Lordan said. “We made our adjustments and changes on the practice courts and in league play. We know what to expect at the national level and from our teammates and partners. We’re ready. Third time’s the charm.”
The Adult 65 & Over National Invitational Championship in the Arizona desert just outside Phoenix in Maricopa County, is slated for Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2.
The Surprise City Tennis and Racquet Complex is also the site of the ITF Pro Circuit “Surprise Tennis Classic” later in the month of February.