TENNIS

UH tennis phenom Ilagan enters senior season with unfinished business

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The uh The Athletic Department held a send-off celebration for Andre Ilagan in May 2022 as he headed to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Andre Ilagan completed one of the most significant seasons in the history of the University of Hawaii in the Mānoa men’s tennis program. Big West Player of the Year, All-Big West First Team in singles and doubles, and a NCAA Tournament appearance was just a few of the Honolulu junior’s 2021-22 season accolades and accomplishments.

After considering giving up his senior year to turn pro, Ilagan decided to return for his senior season with bigger goals for himself and his team.

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person with a tennis racket hitting a ball
Ilagan in the 2022 NCAA Tournament

“I still have a lot to improve. That’s one of the main reasons I stayed. With all the accomplishments I’ve made this year, I would like to do it again,” Ilagan said. “My second main reason was to win a Big West Championship with my team. One of my goals going into college was to flip the curriculum and win a conference championship. [lost in semifinals in 2022]. Now our team is improving a lot, which I can say I have contributed to.

Ilagan is only the second player in program history to be named Big West Player of the Year and the third to be named Conference Player of the Year. It’s the third time he’s been named a Big West first-team player and the second time he’s won first-team honors in doubles.

During the 2021-2022 season, Ilagan played at Nope. 1 spot in singles and doubles in every game, posting a 9-4 record overall and 3-1 in conference. It was ranked as high as Nope. 11 nationally in singles in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, and entered the NCAA Ranked Tournament Nope. 40, where he fell in the first round. In doubles, with partner Karl Collinsthey went 9-2 overall and 4-1 in conference.

Academic success is part of the effort

person in a black shirt with a tennis racket
Ilagan competing as a freshman in 2019

Ilagan also excels in class. He received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Shidler College of Business in the spring of 2022 and plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in economics this fall. Earlier this year, Ilagan became the third uh male tennis player to win a CoAIDS District-wide Academic Award. Ilagan was also the recipient of the Jack Bonham Award, the highest honor given to a student-athlete at uh Manoa. Since 1974, the award has been given annually to the top male and female student-athlete who “best exemplifies the ideals championed by Jack Bonham in the areas of athletic excellence, academic achievement, public service, leadership and of character”.

“He likes a challenge, he likes to put himself on the line, he likes to compete, he likes to learn. These are great qualities to have for anyone looking to take it to the next level,” said head coach Joël Kusnierz. “People can get out of Hawaii and succeed at the higher level—at the college level—but also later because that’s all I want for him. He continues to do his best, he continues to improve, he continues to learn and he continues to give his all. I have no doubt that if he keeps this mindset, the professional level can be there for him.

Giving back to family is ‘goal number one’

Ilagan graduated from Farrington High School in 2018 and won two state singles titles during his junior and senior years. His success at an early age came from tireless hours of hard work and a bit of adversity.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of money, so I just played all the tournaments here in the state once a month everyone plays, and then I always saved money for a big trip. to go to a big tournament on the continent,” Ilagan said.

It was by gaining experience in these tournaments, along with the love and support of his family that propelled him into the person and tennis player he is today. André’s father Sergio coached him when he was younger. And Andre’s older brothers, Anthony and Mark, also won tennis titles at Farrington. Andre constantly keeps them in mind as he pursues a professional tennis career.

“It’s my number one goal is to give back to my family first,” Ilagan said. “Everything, every sacrifice they made for me, I’m very grateful to them.”

-By Marc Arakaki

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