GCA wins second straight MS v-ball title
It was indeed a happy birthday for team captain Sofia Gomez, as her team, the Grace Christian Academy Lady Eagles, won the championships for the second straight year in a row in the NMIVA-PSS Interscholastic Middle School Volleyball League 2022-2023 last Saturday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.
After a perfect regular season of eight wins, the Lady Eagles continued to be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs as they came out unscathed and still undefeated after beating Tanapag Middle School Tatagas in the finale.
In two sets, the Lady Eagles, with a roster of Gomez, Llyana Libut, Ella Hall, Dianna Zheng, Ana Villagomez, Misako Ota, Nevaeh Camacho, Sarah Lim, and Miley Mafnas, blew the Tatagas out of the water, 21-9, 21-15.
A series of aces from Libut and Zheng, coupled with well-placed spikes from Hall guaranteed the championship trophy would stay in their possession.
Meanwhile, the Tatagas, who had a 7-1 record in the regular season after falling to GCA, lost to them in the quarterfinals earlier in the day and could still not get past the might of the Lady Eagles in the finals.
The Tatagas’ Erica Zandueta, Jayme Vargas, Wynona Blas, Hailey Benavente, Karmel Lucas, Rhodalyn Zandueta, Lana Taule, Kashlie Aguon, and Carmen Wenio all played with heart, but fell short as they were unable to return serves and land their shots.
GCA head coach Cesar Libut said after the game that this might have been the girls’ best performance after their undefeated run. “We were champions last year and they had to work so hard just to defend their title, so I owe it all to them. Every game, they’ve improved a lot.”
He also acknowledged the effort that the Tatagas showed on the court in the finals, “Tanapag gave us a good game. I just want to give a cheer for their coaches. They pushed us to [do our] best, so congratulations.”
With Gomez, Hall, Ota, Camacho, and Villagomez all heading into high school next school year, Libut wanted them to be ready for high school volleyball, so a good bump and a well-placed setup for a spike was what they focused on in their practices. “We’re trying to prepare them for high school, so bumps, sets, spikes—at an early age, if they get used to that, it’s a big advantage… as you saw, everything was in order. You know where the ball is going, you know who is going to spike, so it’s a setup that we’ve been practicing everyday, and it [paid] off.”
Gomez, who just turned 14 and was handed a birthday present in the form of a medal and championship trophy, said that she felt good and stress-free after winning on her birthday. She also said her team, who practiced three or four times a week, did their best this season. “We tried our best and did our best. Mr. Cesar [Libut] helped us and motivated us to do our best. We practice very hard also, so I think we earned it.”
Earlier in the quarterfinals, Saipan International School ousted Dandan Middle School, while Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr. High School made it to the Final Four after they defeated Hopwood Middle School. The Tatagas then kicked SIS out in the semis.