Grace Christian Academy will be counting on their veterans’ experience, as well as the fiery spirits of their young guns when they aim to seize the volleyball crowns for the boys and girls divisions of the 2018-2019 Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association Volleyball League.
The No. 1 Eagles will be playing the second-ranked Saipan International School in the pair of title matches tomorrow with the girls finals set for 3:30pm and the boys championship game scheduled for 4:30pm at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
One of the veterans on GCA’s roster is Jasmine Phan, who has a lot of personal stake in the highly anticipated finale, as this will be her last.
“It is a bittersweet feeling knowing that this championship game will be my last, but I’m very excited to be in the finals one more time before I graduate,” Phan said.
The Lady Eagles team captain also talked about the weight of responsibility that comes with being the oldest member of the team.
“The pressure of being the oldest player is that they (the younger players) look up to me and I have to stay strong even when I’m struggling,” Phan added.
Wilgene Lieto—one of the two 12th graders on GCA’s boys team, echoed Phan’s statements.
“I see the whole team as my family, and being the oldest, it means that I have the pressure of making sure that everyone—including myself—can play at our best,” Lieto said.
Phan and Lieto’s on and off court leadership and their years of experience in the league motivate their younger teammates, including freshmen Clerisse Dacumos and Karina Dilse.
Dacumos and Dilse play key roles in the Lady Eagles’ campaign this season, with the former taking the starting setter role on the team and the latter alternating as back-row receiver and spiker. The two young players on the GCA side are both ecstatic for the opportunity to contribute to their team’s championship aspirations.
“I feel hyped and excited about playing in the finals in the CCOPSA for the first time. Of course, I feel just a tiny bit nervous, but I mean that’s normal as from what I’ve heard,” Dacumos said.
Dilse had the same feeling about the winner-take-all game.
“For me to play in the championships for the first time in a high school volleyball tournament is very exciting and maybe a little overwhelming,” the ninth grader said. “The season so far has been such a fun experience and I have learned so much from it.”
As for the young guns of the GCA’s boys team, ninth graders Sam Ryu and Steven Balakrishna could relate to Dacumos and Dilse’s emotions.
“I feel very nervous because this is my first year of being involved with the high school volleyball team and we are in the finals,” said Ryu, who is the team’s starting server. “I hope we will win in the championship game!”
Balakrishna, last season’s MVP when he was still playing in the middle school division, has made tremendous contributions to GCA’s high school team, as he is one of the steady spikers of the Eagles. Though he is doing well in his freshman year, Balakrishna acknowledged that playing in the high school league has been a challenge that has pushed him to improve even more.
“Being one of the youngest players on the team and in the first six, I feel very pressured to play with the other big boys,” Balakrishna said. “I have played in only one championship and it was during [last year’s] JV season. This time, it’s the high school championship. This will be very different, but I will play my best and not hold back.”