Marianas High School survived a tough finals opponent in Grace Christian Academy to rule the 2013-2014 Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization Girls Volleyball League.
The Lady Dolphins bounced back from an opening set loss (24-26) in Game 1 of the finals, winning the last two, 25-20, 18-16, to dethrone GCA. The Lady Eagles won last year’s competition against Saipan International School, but faltered on their back-to-back comeback bid after committing costly errors in the deciding third set.
The erstwhile champion handed MHS the two title-winning points in the third set when Leona Pangilinan’s second shot hit the net and Kimiko Tenorio’s return went wide. The two booboos both came after the Lady Eagles and Lady Dolphins engaged in rallies.
Hercia Nekaifes made the last hit from the attack line for MHS in the first rally with the ball heading down the left sideline of GCA’s court. Tenorio dove for the ball for the save, bringing the leather up for Pangelinan to return. Pangelinan then nearly got entangled with Tenorio, as the latter went up and the former’s shot was a bit late for the return with her shot blocked by the net.
With MHS a point away from clinching the crown, 17-16, the ensuing plays got almost everybody up on their feet, as just one mistake from GCA would mean its season was over. The Lady Eagles held on in the several exchanges, while MHS went for the last shot from the backline with Jenny Dela Cruz’s on the connecting end. It was supposed to be a hit that was easy to return, but Tenorio, who was at the attack line a few feet away from the net was not squared off for the attempt. Her body was twitched and knees were not that bent so when the ball drew contact to her arms, it bounced off strong and headed straight out the left sideline in front of the scorers’ table.
“The girls pulled it together. When we lost the first set, we told them that the only way to win this was to lessen their errors. It really boiled down to which team made less mistakes,” said Somia Quan, who co-coached MHS with Kathy Winkfield.
The Lady Dolphins had two lapses in the back-and-forth first set to lose the extended opener. Sabrina Pangilinan went for a kill, but her attempt was too strong and went past the backline. She then made an adjustment on another attempt, but this time her tip was too soft that it rammed into the net, giving GCA the 26-24 win.
With the close victory, the Lady Eagles moved a set away from sending the title showdown to the deciding Game 2. The Lady Dolphins had a twice-to-beat advantage in the championship round after downing GCA in the winner’s bracket semis, while the Eagles eventually earned a return trip to the finals after eliminating SIS in the loser’s bracket semis.
“We want to win it right away in Game 1 because momentum will definitely switch to GCA’s side if we didn’t. After losing the first set, we told the girls to forget what happened, go and play their game, and tried to extend the match to third set,” Quan said.
The Lady Dolphins went on to regain their bearings in the second set with Shana Flores and Pangilinan alternately attacking for MHS to counter Zena Demapan and Danica Canedo’s shots. The four other MHS’ players, Knohlynn Gechig, Negahr Rasguiy, Dela Cruz, and Nekaifes took turns hustling for the balls and setting up their hitters.
The eventual champions tied Game 1 after a five-point win in the second set, securing the equalizer off GCA’s too errors. The Lady Eagles committed the first one off three touches, while the second came off Demapan’s jumped tip, which went out of the right sideline.
In the third set, GCA and MHS were still neck and neck, but the former had a chance to win it in regulation after managing to lead by two, 12-10. The Lady Eagles broke the deadlock when Dela Cruz’s kill went over the backline and Demapan’s shot dropped to an unguarded spot.
Sensing trouble, MHS sued for time, hoping to break GCA’s momentum.
“It was just a race to 15 game and we knew our players were starting to feel the pressure, so we wanted to give them a breather,” Quan said.
The ploy worked, as the Lady Eagles regrouped and evened up the count anew, 12-all, off another GCA’s 3-touches error and Dela Cruz’s ace. Leona Pangilinan then put GCA back in the lead with her drop at the backline, but Flores countered with a booming spike.
Flores served, hoping to move MHS one point away from ending the match, but her shot was too strong, so it was GCA which got the point to inch closer to Game 1 win. A close line call denied the Lady Eagles’ bid to extend the finals, as Sabrina Pangilinan went for a tip near the left post for the eighth deadlock in the third set.
A Nekaifes wide spike gave GCA the lead anew, but Alexa Go also had a strong kill on the other end for the ninth tie. The Lady Eagles then notched the 16th point with Tenorio blocking Gechig, but MHS refused to give up, as Dela Cruz went for a kill at the center of the attack line and scored the equalizer again. This time, GCA had no answer and succumbed to pressure, committing two crucial errors.