Rain poured in the men’s finale of yesterday’s 2014 Marianas Cup Beach Volleyball Festival and so did the home crowd’s support to Saipan-raised Misaki Cramer, who teamed up with returning pro Paul Baxter in ruling the weekend competition at the Fiesta Resort & Spa sandcourts.
Cramer and Baxter bounced back from a tough Game 1 loss, 21-23, with a convincing 21-15 victory in the title-clinching Game 2 to foil Manny Guarin’s bid for back-to-back championship and Hitoshi Murakami winning in his debut.
“It was great and inspiring to play in front of the people I knew while growing up on Saipan and playing in the beaches here. Their tremendous support really helped me in the finals,” said Cramer, who was mobbed by father Jon and other Saipan supporters at the court after clinching the championship.
Cramer and Baxter secured the men’s crown after the latter blocked Murakami, one of the eight pros who joined the tournament. Earlier, Guam’s Guarin committed a pivotal service error, as his shot went wide over the backline, moving Cramer and Baxter within a point of topping the double-elimination competition.
After the crucial offensive lapse from Guarin, who won last year’s men’s division with Tri Bourne in Guam, Cramer and Baxter took some time before serving, briefly discussing their strategy for the next important play.
“Our plan was to stay focus no matter what happens and cover all the spots. We also planned to attack if the space is open. However, when he got the ball back, it was too tight, so Misaki just went for a regular return and then I saw Hitoshi moving into the net so I got it covered,” said Baxter, who won his fourth men’s title in the annual tournament.
Cramer earned his first one and he became the youngest participant in the Marianas Cup to win the event.
“He got better as the tournament progressed. He was so focused and very quick,” said Baxter of his teammate.
While Cramer used his quickness to hustle for those balls, Baxter leaned on his ceiling and leaping ability to win the battle on the net and went for tricky kills that on several occasions landed on unguarded spots. Before going for those powerful spikes, Baxter almost always checked where Murakami and Guarin were, while Cramer stayed back, anticipating the next play.
The 16-year-old Cramer, who started playing volleyball on Saipan at the age of 7, said with Baxter identifying the weak spot on their foes’ defense, he never felt nervous playing in the finals against a pro and a former champion.
“I knew Baxter has my back. I just have to chase those balls and set him up well. We came here with a winning attitude and we kept that all throughout the tournament and our job was made easier by the overwhelming support that Saipan fans showered us,” said Cramer.
Meanwhile, the results of the women’s division finals will be reported in Saipan Tribune’s Tuesday edition.