Geckos stick it to ACS in MS v-ball finals

Posted on Mar 14 2023


Saipan International School boys varsity volleyball team players and coaches pose with Public School System athletics program director Nick Gross and other officials after wining the NMIVA-PSS Interscholastic Middle School Volleyball League 2022-2023 championship last Saturday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.(MARK RABAGO)

The Saipan International School boys varsity volleyball team capped a perfect season by beating Agape Christian School in the championship match of the NMIVA-PSS Interscholastic Middle School Volleyball League 2022-2023 last Saturday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.

The Geckos’ Magnificent 7—they actually only had seven players—defeated the Torchbearers in straight sets, 21-10, 21-19, with Moshe Sikkel and Nason Wessel imposing their height and athleticism on the net in the first set. It became dicey in the second set though, as Agape fought tooth and nail and gave the Geckos a scare before ultimately losing. 

With the Geckos leading 20-16, Raffy Cai breathed new life on the Torchbearers’ fading hopes by using his jump-serve to perfection. 

With his service mimicking guided missiles, the Geckos were hard-pressed to close the deal and were unable to handle the hard-serving Cai. 

All of a sudden it was 19-20 and Agape appeared on the verge of forcing a third and deciding set as Cai was still in the service area.

But alas Lady Luck smiled on the Geckos as a soft dink ended the game anticlimactically when the volleyball fell on an open space in the Torchbearers’ side of the court. 

SIS players and their supporters justifiably erupted in celebration after the last point before the two teams met at centercourt to exchange pleasantries after a hard-fought championship. 

Aside from swimmer-turned-spiker Sikkel and netter-turned-blocker Wessel, the victorious Geckos were also made up of Theo and Daniel Joab, Landon Pudney, Aiden Camacho, and Allan Cabrera. They were coached by Stacey Eno and Mili Saiki.

Eno, who is a fifth grade teacher at SIS, heaped praise on her boys for sweeping not only the playoffs but the whole season. 

“These guys are good. They have great skills. They’ve been practicing together with the high school for so long. I just needed to teach them the next level and they executed all season and they stepped up to it,” she said.

Eno admitted, however, that the SIS varsity team struggled initially with the new volleyball concepts she was introducing.

“It’s confusing at first to learn some of the higher level things, but they stepped up and did it and it was great. They did a great job, eager, and coachable and they will be winners through the entire time they’re playing sports.”

As for surrendering three of the last four points on Cai’s killer service game, Eno said she’d always known that everything worth fighting for is always hard to get.

“It wouldn’t be tournament play if it doesn’t go back and forth and the margin is three or four points up and down. If we didn’t make it interesting, it wouldn’t be SIS because we like to make the coaches panic quite a lot.”

She also gave credit to Agape players and their coaches for giving them a tough game in the finals.

“We’ve faced Agape quite a few times so we know they have a couple of servers that go for runs on us of five or six points, but we had that timeout just to encourage our players to play point for point at a time. So they did a great job,” said Eno.

Asked whether the SIS middle school varsity will look for a repeat next season after winning it all for the first time this year, the head coach said while they will be losing a bulk of the team to graduation they will certainly try. 

“I think we have two seventh graders and the rest are eighth graders. So I think five are going up to high school so it’s going to be an entirely different team next year, but also an entirely different team for SIS’ high school team. You’re gonna have two unstoppable varsity and JV teams next year, and I’m looking forward to seeing the mix. We’ve already been practicing together and it’s been amazing. So watch out everybody,” said Eno, who also coaches SIS’ high school team.

Last but certainly not the least, the SIS middle school varsity coach thanked the team’s supporters for the successful season. 

“I wanna thank Miss Mili and all the boys for always giving their 100% and Dr. Ron [SIS headmaster Ron Snyder] for showing up to support and the boys always love that. I also want to thank the high school boys for always challenging the middle school boys. The boys just showed up everyday. They were the most coachable team. All the other drama was gone and they just showed up and played with their best abilities.” 

SIS started postseason play by defeating Francisco M. Sablan Middle School in the first round. It then waylaid defending champion Grace Christian Academy in the second round before upending Agape in the semifinals to book the first final seat.

Agape followed SIS’ undefeated run in the playoffs at least into the Final Four. The Torchbearers and head coach En Yang Pang kicked off their playoff campaign by beating Chacha Ocean View Middle School. They then followed it up by defeating Tanapag Middle and DanDan Middle School before bowing to SIS in the semis. It advanced to the championship  match after downing Francisco M. Sablan Middle School in the loser’s bracket finals.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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