For the first time since its inception a couple of years ago, Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s Junior National Academy will have a separate pool for boys and girls, bringing the total of players who made the grade for the elite training program this season to 34.
The JNA Spring Class of 2021 has 14 players in the girls pool and 20 in the boys and they were selected after going through a series of tryouts that started late last year. JNA is one of NMIFA’s grassroots programs for players in the 10 to 12 age group and those who qualified for the special group are prepared for higher-level competitions and national team training system.
Making it to the spring class are Mary Amog, Matty Angeles, Marlaina Benjamin, Wynona Blas, Julie Ann Chavez, Kaye Anne Costales, Valerie Estella, Azriel Fatialofa, Phoenix Gross, Ella Hall, Alana Hayes, Ron Ebana Quindoza, Fiona Regan, and Caurie Staffler in the girls division. The boys side has Mark Costales, Akeen Edvalson, Michael Elayda, Kohjiro Goto, Sernantie Jimenez, Yutaka Kadokura, Paul Lizama, Francisco Maratita, Anton Megino, Taiga Namia-Scoggins, Nolan Ngewakl, Jack Henry Raho, Tyrone Rio-Manipon, Moshe Sikkel, Landon Springer, Arstin and Jayson Tagabuel, Riku Takahashi, and Henry and Stephen Yeom.
“There are six new players on the girls team and five on the boys. The skill level is better as we have coached most of the players last season and can move up to the next level with ease this season,” JNA head coach Jersh Angeles said.
Angeles will call the shots for the boys squad and will be assisted by CNMI Men’s National player Joshua Abragan and goalkeeper coach Raymond Zapanta, while Angie Ito and women’s national team member Katrina Costales will handle the girls crew. Angeles, Ito, and Zapanta are certified coaches, while Costales and Abragan are currently taking the NMIFA “C” Coaching Certificate Course that started early this week.
Angeles admitted that having the JNA class this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic is definitely challenging, but NMIFA and its pool of coaches are committed and determined to run the program to keep the players on track toward becoming strong candidates for the CNMI national team
“It is very important for NMIFA to continue with this kind of program even if there’s no definite tournaments yet. JNA prepares these young players technically, physically, and mentally before they step into the NMI National Team program and training has to be year-round,” Angeles said.
This year’s class had its first training session last Thursday and the NMIFA coaches were pleased with the players’ performance early into the season. However, Angeles said they have a lot of work ahead, especially at this time when they have to follow safety measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will still focus on the basic techniques in the movement, coordination, moving the ball intentionally as a team, gaining the ball intentionally as a team and understanding player’s positional task in a 5v5 and 8v8 game,” the JNA head coach said.
Angeles added they hope to develop a few more goalkeepers from the group now that JNA has Zapanta as goalkeeper mentor.
“Coach Raymond will introduce the fundamentals of goalkeeping. As of now we have two goalkeepers, one from each team and we’re hoping to get more players to try goalkeeping,” Angeles said.