NMMI Sports Press
There’s a pipeline from the South Pacific to NMMI to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
It’s a pipeline of tennis players, and two Lady Broncos are continuing the tradition of moving from NMMI to HSU.
Sophomores Thea Minor, who hails from Fiji, and Lorraine Banimataku, Saipan, signed their Letters of Intent Tuesday to play for the Reddies, following in the footsteps of Bronco Daneric Hazelman, who’s the current graduate assistant, and former Lady Bronco Amanda Korinihona, who’s been a Reddie for two years.
“This is a fantastic program we’ve developed, from the Pacific to NMMI to Henderson State,” said Lady Bronco coach Dan O’Connell. “I thank coach Brenda (Joiner) so much at Henderson State for investing in our kids.”
Minor and Banimataku said they’ve known Joiner and the Reddie players for several years, having played in October challenge tournaments for two years and just last spring vs. the HSU team. (NMMI only fell 5-4 to the four-year school.)
“Last year was when she told both of us she wanted to get us on the team,” Minor said. “I think she likes our attitude both on and off the court. So I think us, the Pacific Islanders, she really likes how we interact with her and other people.”
Both NMMI athletes hope to enroll in the Henderson State nursing program, which Minor said is very competitive.
“They only accept like 25 applicants a semester,” she said. “They are pretty strict when they pick their people.”
They’ll also be competitive on the court, as the Reddies, a member if the DII Great American Conference, have had strong seasons. Plus, just as they did at NMMI, the Lady Broncos will be running cross country in the fall.
With Hazelman graduating with a masters’ degree, Korinihona will take over the reins as the new grad assistant.
“We are so pleased to have Thea and Lorraine join coach Amanda Korinihona as the graduate assistant,” O’Connell said. “Thank you coach Brenda for putting all this together, and we want to continue this pipeline in the years to come.”
Both soft-spoken athletes gave credit to NMMI for helping them develop, not only as athletes.
“When I first came here, I was really quiet,” Banimataku said. “After two years at NMMI, I’ve built confidence.”
Minor agreed, saying this came about partly because she had a leadership position in the Corps, as well as from taking a leadership class.
“It gave me more confidence when I had a position. I was able to lead a group,” she said. “We developed more intellectually, also. We had an idea of how leadership is supposed to be.”
Korinihona also learned from the Institute, Banimataku said.
“Amanda said when she was here, NMMI kept her occupied. She was always doing stuff. But now that she’s at Henderson State, she has a lot of free time, and she manages her time wisely.”
The pair have one more challenge with the Broncos before heading off to their next adventure. They’ll be competing in the NJCAA National Tournament in Tyler, Texas, Saturday through Thursday.
And when it’s all over, O’Connell said, they’ll leave a hole that will be hard to fill.
“I’m going to miss Thea and Lorraine so much, and Amanda Hawkins, who’s also graduating,” he said. “Lovely kids. I’m really going to miss them. It’s been a great two years.”