The 2021-2022 NMIFA Interscholastic Soccer League has a new champion, as Saipan International School defeated 2020-2021 season winner Koblerville Elementary School in last Wednesday’s finale, 4-1, at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
Lukas Lee, Vaiava Hihina-Mercado, and Quido Jambor teamed up in handing the Geckos the title win and denying the Umang’s bid for back-to-back elementary school division crown. Koblerville 2 took the 2020-2021 title after downing Saipan Community School in the finals early this year, 6-2.
This season, Koblerville 1 challenged SIS in the championship game and failed to keep the crown after scoring only one goal.
Eleazie Mettao put Koblerville 1 on the board in the 32nd minute, but by the time he connected on his shot, the Geckos had already fired three goals. Hihina-Mercado gave SIS its first goal in the eighth minute and the Geckos hung on to the precarious lead at the end of the first half.
In the second half, SIS threatened to pull away behind the two straight goals of Lee, who registered his first goal in the 21st minute and the second six minutes later.
After Mettao’s goal brought SIS’ lead down to 2, 1-3, the Geckos countered quickly with Jambor’s goal in the 33rd minute. Koblerville 1 then could not fight back in the remaining minutes of the finals to fall short in their campaign for two consecutive championships in the elementary division.
The Geckos won their first elementary division title since the co-ed format was introduced in the 2019 season and second overall, as the team prevailed in the boys tournament in 2014. Joining Vaiava Hihina-Mercado, Jambor, and Lee on this season’s champion squad are Chen Wangxing, Yutaro Kitagawa, Finn Altizer, Steve Zeng, Keoni and Leilani Ruszala, Windsor and Beatrice Gross, Nathaniel Roberto, Yun Hee Woo, Johnny Zhang, Jake and Dean Duenas, Tristan Bertoncini, Elizabeth Culp, and Jude Rayphand. April Liske-Clark is the Geckos’ coach.
Meanwhile, Garapan 1 took the third place honors in the division after winning over Garapan 2, 7-2.
Jazzroy Villagomez towed Garapan 1 to victory after delivering five goals. Evan Seguritan and John Vergara added one apiece, while Garapan 2’s pair of goals both came from Kanoa Owens.