The CNMI did it again, beating Guam, 3-0, in the women’s division of the Marianas Cup 2019 held at the Guam Football Association Training Center last Saturday.
Gianna Griffin scored the pair of goals for the CNMI Women’s U19 National Team, while Guine Borja contributed one, and the rest of the Commonwealth players stood strong on defense to shut down the host and duplicate their 2018 victory (3-2)
Griffin’s first goal came in the 21st minute off a long shot (about 40 yards). The play started off a pass from Borja to Griffin at center mid with a Guam defender partially intercepting it. Griffin, however recovered the ball and deceived two Guam defenders, who were moving toward the goal anticipating the CNMI striker to dribble closer. Instead, Griffin took only a few dribbles to right center and kicked the ball with her left foot for the shot that went over the hands of Guam goalie Kiarra Hutcherson, just a few inches away from the upper right cross bar and dropping right into the goal.
After Griffin’s conversion, the CNMI remained aggressive on offense and defense, getting three more opportunies to score, while limiting Guam’s touches to keep the shaky lead at the break.
When the game resumed, the visiting team found the back of the net early with Griffin earning her second goal in the 46th minute. The lefty scored after they had back-to-back attempts and faltered. Griffin received a forward pass from Borja and the former sprinted to right center ahead of her defender and unloaded a shot. However, Griffin’s cross was way off to the left. Fortunately for the CNMI, Jannah Casarino picked up the ball and made a short pass to Katrina Costales, who then went for the left center cross with Hutcherson leaping for a save. The ball went over Hutcherson’s hands anew and seemed to head down when Griffin jumped right into the picture and kicked the ball in with her left foot.
Now down by two, Guam started to feel the pressure and was eager to counter. The hosts had two chances to score a few minutes after Griffin’s second goal, but failed to cash in. Lauren Phillips broke away from two CNMI defenders and swung the ball from right to center inside the penalty to a trailing Jinae Teria, who took the shot before CNMI goalie Emalyn Aniana dove for the save. However, Teria’s cross in the 53rd minute was way wide to the right. The other botched attempt came a minute later when Jadyn Palomares went for a long shot from center mid, but the ball also rolled way off to the right, missing its target.
That was the only time Guam made attempts in succession in the second half, as the CNMI dominated possession the rest of the way and repeatedly frustrated the hosts. The visiting players either sneaked in to steal the ball from Guam or kicked it out of play, disrupting their opponents’ rhythm.
While Guam’s struggle continued, the CNMI got another goal in the 56th minute off Borja’s lob. The last goal was delivered after Jerlyn Castillo’s shot was deflected by a Guam defender and Lilian Podziewski recovered the ball and passed it out to Borja at mid center. Borja then took two dribbles forward before unleashing a shot with the ball going over the outstretched arms of Hutcherson, nearly hitting the center cross bar before heading down into the goal.
Borja was hugged by her teammates after the icing on the cake in the 56th minute, but it was just a brief celebration, as they went back to business, playing steady defense and giving Guam no chance to launch a comeback.
“Our defense was solid today. We also controlled the game and the team worked very hard under the heat. Our fitness level was really good,” head coach Luem Khen Koo said.
Koo and the CNMI women’s team received medals and a trophy for the repeat against Guam, while Griffin was named MVP in the competition.
Meanwhile, Guam earned a split in the Marianas Cup after its U19/U23 crew topped the CNMI, 6-2. Anthony Quidachay, Kyle Halehale, Isiah Lagutang, Jacob McDonald, Devan Mendiola, and Clayton Sato scored for Guam, while Sunjoon Tenorio hit the board for the CNMI, which had its other goal off Guam’s miscue. Halehale was the MVP in the men’s division.