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Seventh grade, and already a champion

Toishi captures Section VII girls singles tournament title after unbeaten first season

May 24, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - For a young athlete whose favorite sport is definitely skiing, Sonja Toishi is pretty good at the game of tennis too.

On Friday, the seventh-grader completed her climb to the top of Section VII heap, winning the girls singles title at SUNY Plattsburgh. After playing in the second doubles position all season for the Lake Placid High School girls team, Toishi took on the best the section had to offer and came out on top in the three-day elimination tournament.

Toishi had never played tennis competitively prior to this season, but she did spend years learning the game from her father Ikou, who is a tennis and a ski coach. As it turned out, Toishi went unbeaten in seven Champlain Valley Athletic Conference regular season matches, just like her Lake Placid High School team. When it came to last week's sectional tournament, she was undefeated again, winning all five of her matches to become the Blue Bombers' first girls singles champion since Jessica Stripp took the title in 2004 and 2005.

Article Photos

Lake Placid seventh-grader Sonja Toishi competes in second singles in the Blue Bombers’ season-opening match in April against Plattsburgh. After going unbeaten in CVAC play, she went on to win the Section VII girls singles crown.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

On Monday, Toishi sat down with her coach Jon Fremante and talked about her first season playing tennis at the varsity level.

"We knew Sonja had the ability, but not ever playing matches before, we weren't sure what she could do," said Fremante, who first met Toishi when she joined the Blue Bombers girls modified soccer team last fall. "It started last year. I've seen her hitting with her father for years, and she played soccer for us, and that's the first time I really got to know her. I saw her on the court one day with her dad and I asked if she would be interested in playing tennis for us, and she said yes."

Not only did Toishi play undefeated tennis during the regular season, she didn't drop a single set while competing in the Blue Bombers' second spot behind their No. 1 player, senior Victoria O'Leary. She continued the trend last week at the sectional tournament with straight-set victories against four opponents to advance to the final, and then for the first time this spring, she finally dropped a set in the championship match. She kicked off the showdown with Plattsburgh's Brina Micheels, the tourney's top seed, with a 6-2 opening set win, but fell in the second by a 6-4 score. Toishi then came through with a 6-4 win in the third to clinch the title.

"I thought she could win just because of her skills alone, but not playing a lot of the No. 1 girls, I didn't know how she would handle the pressure," Fremante said. "When she got into that championship match and had lost a set for the first time, I think it was a great test of her character and her ability to stick with it. Never did she flinch."

"I was excited and felt really nice," the soft-spoken Toishi said. "I was a little nervous coming into the final round. "The early rounds weren't too bad. The last two rounds, the competition was definitely better. In the final, I just played the third set like it was the first set."

"She had a big smile on her face," Fremante said while turning toward his young champion. "I think one of the things you said to me in the third set was you thought about skiing. And it made her happy. You really can't ask for more from an athlete in high school, in middle school. If they are enjoying it and winning, that's a perfect combination."

In a twist to the season, the only player who Toishi didn't beat this spring was her teammate O'Leary, who held down Lake Placid's No. 1 singles position for the fourth season in a row. Normally, players will battle for spots in the lineup in ladder matches, and Toishi had two cracks at topping O'Leary for Lake Placid's No. 1 singles position, but couldn't overtake her on both occasions. Fremante, however, said Toishi's competitiveness rubbed off on the rest of her teammates, especially O'Leary and Laurel Miller, who played third singles.

"I definitely think she helped the whole team, especially Victoria and Laurel," Fremante said. "When they played her, they had to step up their game and play hard. I think Laurel played her twice on the season and she beat Laurel, but it made Laurel realize 'I have to try harder,' and Laurel had an unbeaten season in our No. 3 spot. And I think Victoria, this is one of the best years she has had on the court being a more aggressive player, more powerful player, and I think a lot of that stemmed from having matches with Sonja knowing she had to play her best to beat her."

Even though Toishi showed the older girls how it's done on the court, a tennis title isn't going to sway her away from picking a new favorite sport. There's little doubt that she plans to stick with skiing. This past winter, Toishi won the super-G and finished second overall as a U14 racer at the NYSSRA state championships while competing against the best young alpine athletes in New York.

"I like skiing better, but I still like tennis and I don't want to be bad at tennis," she said. "I just like winning. If it's skiing, if it's tennis, you have to have determination to win. At the beginning of the season, my ultimate goal was to win sectionals and maybe go to states if I could.

"It was a fun season. It was really fun being on the team, and all the girls were really nice," Toishi added. "It was pretty cool being a seventh-grader on varsity, but there wasn't a modified team, so there wasn't really another option. No regrets at all except for the fact that I never beat Victoria."



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