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Toishi savors trip to states
June 7, 2019

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LAKE PLACID - Sonja Toishi would have loved to have moved on to the state high school tennis championships when she won the Section VII girls singles title as a seventh-grader two years ago while playing for the Lake Placid Blue Bombers.

But she didn't have that opportunity because girls tennis in Section VII is played in the spring, while across the rest of the New York, the season takes place during the fall. And so does the girls state tournament, which is held in late October.

So, after conquering the Section VII girls field during her first year of varsity eligibility, Toishi opted to compete against the boys when the tennis season rolled around again last spring. She based the decision on two factors. Toishi knew it would be more of a challenge going up against the boys. Even more importantly, if she wanted play high school tennis on the state's biggest stage, it would have to be in the boys tournament held each spring at Flushing Meadows.

Toishi didn't make it that far as an eighth-grader, but she came through this time around as a freshman. After winning the Section VII boys singles championship May 23, Toishi saw her dream realized when she played two matches Thursday, May 30 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the home of the U.S. Open.

Toishi was the only female in the talented 96-player field that qualified to compete for both boys singles and doubles state championships. Toishi wasn't expecting to win. In fact, in the past 20 years, no boys from Section VII have ever made it past the first round anyway. Just having the chance to be part of the event was all that Toishi was really hoping for.

"I didn't want to go to states for the guys team, because I thought that would be really hard, and I know it's going to be," Toishi said May 29 before she left for Queens. "Going for the girls would be easier, but the way it is right now, I couldn't. They play in the fall. I had to play with the boys."

Toishi faced a steep learning curve playing first singles for the Blue Bombers boys in 2018. She tasted defeat in the regular season and then was dealt a quick exit at the sectional tournament, where the winners earn a trip to the state championships.

This season as the top gun for the Blue Bombers' boys, Toishi dropped the first match she played, falling to Plattsburgh's Sebastian Bonnabesse. She didn't lose after that, and avenged that setback with a straight-set victory over Bonnabesse in the Section VII singles final.

Toishi said after looking at the seedings for sectionals, she thought a trip to the fabled Flushing Meadows could be a real possibility.

"When I looked the bracket, my side was pretty easy," she said. "No one on my side gave me any trouble this year. Everyone was on the other side, and I could only play them in the final, so that's when I realized I could make it to states."

After making history as a girl winning a boys sectional tennis crown, and still just a freshman, Toishi wasn't able to pull off what would have been a nearly unbelievable feat on May 30, although what she did accomplish was amazing enough. Toishi lost her opening contest and then fell in the consolation round. She won games in both matches in an effort that her coach, Tyler Chase, was informed was the best performance turned in by a Section VII player in recent memory.

In the opening round, Toishi dropped a 6-3, 6-1 decision to Jerry Xiao of Williamsville East of Section VI, and was then defeated by Eric Schuman of Section II's Averill Park by a 6-1, 6-2 score.

Chase, who leads the Blue Bombers boys program, said it was great being at the tournament coaching Toishi, and added that she was impressive.

"Looking at the level of play down there, it was just breathtaking," Chase said Thursday evening after returning from the tournament. "I just told her 'You're doing well. These guys are good. I told her 'Bring him to the net, make him move around,' but really, all the guys here are pretty well adjusted.

"There were times when she just got some really good shots off," Chase continued. "I think she walked off the court in both matches with her opponents' respect. She made them work. It was something special to see."

Interestingly enough, tennis isn't even Toishi's top sport. She's an alpine skier who hopes to eventually compete in that sport in an NCAA, Division I collegiate program. Tennis for Toishi, is all about having fun and staying fit for the ski season.

"I'm think since I've gotten better at tennis, it's a lot more fun now," she said. "I don't want to lose, but I just like playing tennis. Being a competitive skier, that's my plan. I just think it's cool going down to Flushing Meadows. I don't expect to win. That's not my goal. I just want to have fun, and I'm excited to go to New York.

In addition to Chase, Jon Fremante, who coached Toishi when she played with the Lake Placid girls' team, and her parents Elena and Ikuo also made the journey to New York for the tournament.

"We stay active and happy, and we like to keep her busy," Elena said. "She's been playing tennis since she was four or five, and we are excited for her."

"Sonja always wanted to go to states. That's been her plan, but she can't do it in the fall," Ikuo said. "She really didn't want to play against the boys, but of course, playing against the boys only made her better."

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