National players to toughen up

The CNMI national U15 and U19 players pose for a photo before their practice session at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville yesterday. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI’s national football team players are heading to the Philippines to sharpen up, as they prepare for the 2019 Marianas Cup.

Twenty-seven players in the U15 and U19 division will leave Saipan tomorrow for the June 22 to July 11 training camp at the Tuloy Foundation’s XO Field in Alabang. The group is made up of Mia Carreon, Britany Wally, Guine Borja, Emalyn and Mary Joy Aniana, Jerlyn Castillo, Katrina Costales, Khristelle Itaas, Winneb Echavez, Jenny and Julie Capayas, Lillian Podziewski, Sharmaine Francisco, Julianne Hall, Marinel Falalimpa, Nathanette Blas, Jannah Casarino, Christina Atalig, Stephanie Flores, Allyssya Angeles, Aubrey and Audrey Castro, Summer Manahane, Rizza Relucio, Pia Ngewakl, and Andrei Kaithlyn Chavez. Joining the U15 and U19 players are head coach Luem Khen Koo, team manager and assistant coach Angie Ito, assistant manager Yu Hung Lee, assistant coaches Irish Pagarao and Jimmy Tang, and physiotherapist Hazel Mabasa. The U.S-based Gianna Griffin is also on the squad and will join her U19 teammates at the training camp on July 2.

“After winning the Marianas Cup on Saipan last year, there is definitely pressure on the team. We need this kind of training to withstand that pressure, as we want to keep the title when we face Guam next month (July 20),” Ito said.

“The training will not only help the players get physically ready, but mentally as well, as mental toughness is somehow our weakness because we have such a young and inexperience squad,” the team manager added.

The CNMI bets will be facing Guam for the second time this year, as the two teams both played in the Jockey Club Girls International Youth Invitational Football Tournament 2019 in Hong Kong last March.

“We lost to Guam, 2-3, and we want to recover from that defeat. We will be going up against familiar faces and hopefully our girls learned a lot from that loss in Hong Kong and will get the win this time,” Ito said.

Koo, who presided over the group’s last practice at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville yesterday, liked what he is seeing with the team.

“They are progressing each day. And this training camp—a longer one—will definitely sharpen their individual and team skills. Every time the players go off-island, they learn something. Also, CNMI national players are getting younger and younger, so they need experience, exposure so they will continue to get better,” Koo said.

Podziewski, who will be suiting up for the U19 crew in the Marianas Cup, said the training camp will give the team the opportunity to work on their chemistry.

“We will be together for nearly three weeks and that’s a lot of time to improve our chemistry on and off the pitch. Being off-island will also allow us to focus our attention solely on soccer,” Podziewski said.

Meanwhile, some U15 players in the training camp will also play in the Marianas Cup, while majority of them will represent the CNMI in the 2019 East Asian Footbal Federation Festival in South Korea.

The EAFF event will run from Aug. 4 to 10 at the Mokpo International Football Center.

“Our U15 players will have their hands full in the EAFF event, as all 10 member-countries will be represented in South Korea. Though it is just a festival, the games and the players will be tough and our girls need to keep up, so this training camp in the Philippines will give them the opportunity to get ready for the difficult battle ahead,” Ito said.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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