UH Hilo’s Men’s Tennis Team Earns Record Placing at the NCAA Division II Tennis Championships

An interview with the team’s coach who led them this season, Kallen Mizuguchi

Mens tennis team stands with trophy at NCAA National Championships

“The NCAA National Championships was a great experience for the team and myself as a coach. It’s a different atmosphere-it’s where the best of the best come to compete.”

Staff Writer Breandain Clarke
Photographs courtesy of Shelley Blunck

With the college tennis season now far behind us, and the next season starting back up this November, UH Hilo’s men’s tennis team have accomplished a feat that they, including their coach Kallen Mizuguchi, are very proud of.

The men’s team ranked in 4th place in the NCAA Division II championships, a ranking that has not been reached in any previous season. While discussing this recent victory with Coach Mizuguchi, he had a lot to say about the championship and his team as a whole.

Commenting on the championship, Mizuguchi said, “The NCAA National Championships was a great experience for the team and myself as a coach. It's a different atmosphere; it's where the best of the best come out to compete. For the young guys on the team, it was a good exposure to help them get motivated for years to come.”

He discussed the humbling aspect of a win like this, stating, “To the team, winning and accomplishments are huge for sure. They all know what it's like to win and they know what it's like to lose. That's why they worked so hard to achieve what they have done so far.” With a win such as this, the morale for the upcoming season is high, but Mizuguchi said, “the biggest upside was them knowing that they are at that caliber where they could be among the top in the country.”

Looking to the future goals with his teams, Mizuguchi aims to build both men’s and women’s teams. “I want to continue to grow and develop their skills, but I would also like to acquire more local players,” he stated. “The greatest win would be a National Championship and Conference Championship. It would be the first time in UH Hilo history.”

In the men’s team, the roster is full of individuals who come from all around the world including Mexico, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Taiwan, Japan, Arizona, and some from Hawaiʻi. “With such a diverse team, many of them probably would have never met if it wasn't for UH Hilo,” Mizuguchi continued. “They all have the same common goal, and it’s to improve and win; that keeps them working to achieve that goal as a team and they manage to have fun doing that. I am positive that after they all graduate and leave UHH, they will have created life-long friendships.”

On the topic of what he considers most important to him as a coach, he said, “Winning is great, but I think the most important aspect for me as coach is them coming into UH Hilo and leaving as a better person. Building good character and leaving a positive impact on the university, the community, the professors, their teammates, and the staff -- achieving something that is greater than themselves.”

As a final comment, Coach Mizuguchi had a message for both of his teams. “Keep pumping, day in and day out. Walk onto the court with the mindset that no matter the conditions, it is an opportunity to improve. And always stay grounded.”