Hopwood takes grass v-ball tiara

Posted on Apr 13 2021

Hopwood Middle School players and coaches receive their perpetual plaque from Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association president Somia Quan, left standing, after winning the 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League by winning the girls championship last Saturday at the CPA Airport Field. (Mark Rabago)

Hopwood Middle School prevented a Tanapag Middle School sweep in the 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League by winning the girls championship last Saturday at the CPA Airport Field.

The girls of coach Connie Camacho lost to the same team earlier in the semifinals to drop to the loser’s bracket finals against Saipan International School 1. The Lady Hilitais quickly recovered from the three-set loss to Tanapag by pouring their ire on the Lady Geckos as they outlasted them in another three-set thriller.

Team captain Rizza Relucio, Elisha Henzon, Juliana Magtalas, Direnalyn Castro, Kialeen Leemarvin, and Angielysha Punzalan then swam upstream in the championship game against the Lady Tatagas, surviving three do-or-die matches against the No. 1 seed to finally bring home the girls perpetual trophy back to Afetna.

Riding high from their clutch win against SIS 1, Hopwood tattooed the volleyball all over Tanapag’s side of the court to win the first set in a laugher, 21-8. The Lady Tatagas woke up a bit on the second set, engaging the Lady Hilitais in a virtual dogfight before the former prevailed, 21-18. It was more of the same in the third and final set, as Hopwood erased Tanapag’s thrice-to-beat advantage by winning in a nail-biter, 21-19.

Camacho, the CNMI Hall of Famer barking instruction to players in the Hopwood sidelines, attributed their finals win to her team’s perseverance all throughout the season.

“My team worked so hard at practice and persevered throughout this tournament. I have to give them credit for never giving up. I knew my team was more skillful. I never doubted them from the beginning. They played extremely well yesterday, like how they should. However, we had miscommunications and errors that cost us our first loss this morning to TMS. We managed to correct our errors and fought through,” she told Saipan Tribune.

Hopwood players, which were composed of two 8th graders and two 7th graders, also followed Camacho’s instructions to the T and that proved the recipe for their success in the tournament.

“If you watched my girls play, you can tell that they were the only team playing ‘3,’ bump, set, and spike. I love teaching and coaching kids, especially in the middle school level. I want to thank the other coaches, Mr. Manny Ogarto and Mr. Norman Deleon Guerrero and the HMS parents and staff that came out to support our team.”

What made Hopwood’s victory a lot sweeter for Camacho is that older brother and fellow CNMI Hall of Famer, Peter, was also on the field that day, serving as one of the assistant coaches of boys champion Tanapag Middle School. “It was crazy that my brother was coaching the other winning team.”

Hopwood began the one-day tournament with a win over SIS 1 and then followed that up by vanquishing Francisco M. Sablan Middle School 1. They then lost to Tanapag before outlasting SIS 1 in the semifinals to arrange the title showdown with the Lady Tatagas.

Before ultimately succumbing to Hopwood in the finals, Tanapag blazed a trail in the elimination round, beating Tinian Middle School, Dandan Middle School 1, SIS 1, and then Hopwood.

The 2021 boys and girls Middle School Grass Volleyball League was organized by Nick Gross, Public School System athletic director, with help from the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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