Grace Christian Academy recorded a rare feat, as it swept all three championships in the 2018-2019 Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association Volleyball League, battling through formidable opponents and other obstacles en route to securing a trifecta this season.
The first of the Eagles’ three titles was courtesy of their co-ed middle school team, which survived the surging Agape Christian School squad in a three-set finale, 25-19, 22-25, 15-9, last Jan. 15. The youngest of GCA’s teams was not only tasked with keeping the red-hot Torchbearers at bay, but also assigned to help the community in its recovery efforts from Super Typhoon Yutu.
The GCA-Agape finals match was originally scheduled for Oct. 23, but was rescheduled to Jan. 15 due to the storm. Then after Yutu mangled the island, GCA players diverted their attention away from volleyball activities to prioritize aiding residents in clearing debris from their properties.
“[After the storm], our focus changed to helping the community,” Eagles coach Cesar Libut said. “Players, along with Youth on the Rock, spent time helping the community clear their yards of debris and segregate them.”
Though Yutu robbed GCA and other schools of practice time after the storm passed, Libut said that the Eagles’ hands-on involvement on the island’s recovery process helped them gel in an unconventional way.
“Even if there were less practices, they learned communication, trust, and teamwork [through the recovery process], which are great qualities to have to win championships,” the GCA mentor said.
More than a month after Yutu flattened the island and with the affected residents still scrambling to bounce back, GCA and other participating schools thought the high school competition will be scrapped this season.
“We were worried and wondering if they would still have the CCOPSA league,” Lady Eagles captain Jasmine Phan. “Thankfully they did.”
Phan and company went on to defend their title after outclassing Saipan International School in the finals last week, 22-25, 25-22, 15-9.
“These girls have the heart to play,” Phan said. “They may be a little scared, but they just need a little push to get through any obstacles.”
Like the Lady Eagles, GCA’s boys team also overcame setbacks during their championship run.
“The typhoon really held us back,” captain Joshua Pajarillaga said. “Because of all the things that needed to be rebuilt, we were not able to practice for a short while.”
Pajarillaga and his teammates then had to work double time to make up for the lost trianing hours and get ready for the season.
“We had to practice a lot. Everyone on the team wanted the same thing—to win,” Pajarillaga said. “We also knew that if we wanted to win, we needed to work for it…Thankfully, everyone did their best to show up [to practice] and make up for practices they couldn’t attend.”
The Eagles’ efforts were rewarded when they toppled the mighty Geckos in two closely fought sets, 25-20, 25-23, in last Thursday’s finale and GCA went on to complete its impressive triple-championship run.
“I am thankful for being the coach of these three GCA teams that have won the championships,” Libut said.
Phan and Pajarillaga added that they are blessed and proud to be part of this great achievement.
“It feels amazing to know how much the school, as a whole, has accomplished this year,” Phan said. “It truly is a blessing.”
“I was waiting for this moment for about three years,” Pajarillaga said when asked about the number of tries it took for GCA to sweep the three titles. “Finally winning for our school in all three tournaments is amazing, and I’m so glad that I was able to see it happen and to be a part of it.”
Libut is also overflowed with gratitude and thanked those who have been part of the success of GCA’s volleyball program.
“I would like to thank our players for their dedication and trust in me, and our wonderful parents who have given their full support to the kids,” Libut said. “I would also like to thank the GCA administration, staff, and faculty for their support, especially to Mrs. Beth Nunez (principal) and Mrs. Susan Pajarillaga (vice principal).”
“I would also like to thank my wife, Mrs. Rowena, for her support, encouragement, and prayer for me and the team, and of course my daughter, Ellaizah, and son, AJ, for helping train our players, and especially my granddaughter LJ for her inspiration,” Libut said. “But above all, I would like to thank our God Almighty for His guidance, provision, and protection for the team.”