CNMI U16 team up for tough grind


CNMI U16 Girls National Team coach Taketomo Suzuki gives pointers to his players before resuming their training session at the TSL Sports Complex early this month. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI U16 Girls National Team is in a tip-top shape as it leaves for China early this morning to compete in the AFC U16 Women’s Championships 2017 Qualifier.

“In the last two weeks, the girls went through tough physical training. They are in very good shape, their physical conditioning is on a high level,” said head coach Taketomo Suzuki last Monday during a send-off ceremony for the team at Kanoa Resort.

Taketomo, who will be assisted by Patricia Coleman, is bringing in a 20-player team to the qualifier, which will be held at the Luneng Football School in Weifang from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5. The CNMI roster is made up of goalies Toremy Diaz and Irish Viray, defenders Princess Alcantara, Anela Duenas, Ericka Santiago, Samantha Manacop, Patricia Surima, Grace Choi, and Franchesca Bucalig, midfielders Jerlyn Castillo, Leisha Sally, Valeria Myers, Esther Jones, Gillian Villagomez, and Jasmine Phan, forwards Katherine Magat, Jobelle Tabuena, and Ruschelle Valino and team captains Lyka Sally and Guinevere Borja. Joining the CNMI players in the Asian Football Confederation-sanctioned tournaments are delegation head Luam Khen Koo, team manage Gigi Zapanta, equipment manager Longwen Ji, team supervisor Yu Hung Lee, and physiotherapist Pam Carhill.

The CNMI players started training for the AFC event early this year, three or four times a week, while in the last two weeks, despite the uncooperative weather, they held practice sessions on weekdays. Indoor training sessions were held at the TSL Sports Complex.

The Commonwealth delegation are expected to arrive in Weifang later tonight and they will have only one day to prepare for their opening game against Malaysia at 8pm (6pm Saipan time).

Taketomo admitted they don’t know much about Malaysia and the majority of the teams they will be facing in China, so they will be relying on the players’ good physical conditioning to keep up with their foes, and put into play what they have been practicing for months.

“We have little knowledge about how Malaysia, India, and the Philippines play. We played before against South Korea, but in the lower age group (U14). However, what we know is they are strong teams so our players have to play their best so we can produce the best possible results in every game,” Taketomo said.

“The key here is to apply what we have been practicing in the actual games. I know they are excited to play and will give it their best shot,” the head coach added.

After its opening game against Malaysia, the CNMI crew will take a rest on Monday before returning to the pitch on Tuesday to challenge the Philippines, also at 8pm or after the 3pm tiff between Malaysia and South Korea. The Commonwealth bets will then face the South Koreans on Sept. 1 in the first game at 3pm. For their last assignment in the round-robin pool play, the CNMI youth players will square off against the India strikers on Sept. 3 at 3pm.

Only the top finisher in the pool (Group B) will qualify to next year’s finale and join finalists North Korea, Japan, China, and Thailand. Three other groups will have their respective qualifiers with Group A (Myanmar, Jordan, Thailand, Laos, and Guam) tournaments to be held in Chonburi, Thailand; Group C (Chinese-Taipei, Kyrgyzstan, UAE, Singapore, Iran, and Bangladesh) in Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Group D (Hong Kong, Australia, Palestine, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam) in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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