Saipan International School avoided another bridesmaid finish after outlasting Grace Christian Academy in a three-set finale, 25-18, 13-25, 15-6, in the middle school division of the 2015-2016 Coalition of Private Schools Sports Association Volleyball League last Friday at the Whispering Palms court.
The Geckos, who lost to Mt. Carmel School last season, gained enough cushion against an erratic Eagles team in the early part of the deciding third set and kept their momentum, despite a nearly 20-minute lull in the finals due to rain, to bag this year’s middle school championship.
SIS 1 was ahead at 6-2 when it rained and organizers were forced to halt the match. The Geckos took the upper hand off GCA’s three touches and three wide shots, Shea Hartig’s ace, and Allen Lee’s spike. The Eagles on the other hand, were rewarded two points off Steven Goodwin’s wide spike and Hannah Chan’s short service.
When the game resumed, the Geckos stretched their lead, 7-2, off another wide return from the Eagles, and the former threatened to break away, 11-4, after Eun Syu Hahn’s spike hit the net. With their chances of pulling off an upset against SIS 1 dwindling, GCA called a timeout and scored a point after dropping the ball at the backline with neither of the two Geckos players in that area stepping in for a shot.
However, SIS 1 quickly got the point back off Seung You Mock’s spike, 12-5. The Geckos and the Eagles then split the next two points as both teams made errors, moving the former two points away from wrapping up the match, 12-6, and getting their first middle school crown since the league adopted a new name in 2007.
Mock served with the ball heading to the back line and GCA’s Josh Pajarillaga attempting to toss the leather up, but it slipped and fell to the ground with no GCA player close enough to dig it. Mock served anew for match point and Pajarillaga did the same move and this time two of his teammates were near him, but failed to return the ball with the last hit blocked by the net.
With the three-set win, SIS 1 was awarded the championship trophy later after the girls high school finale. Joining Mock, Hartig, Goodwin, Chan, and Lee on the champion squad are Goodwin, Malika Miyawaki, Sally Lai, Henry and Anna Qian, and Justin Kosack.
The Geckos controlled the opening set, leading by as much as 9, 22-13, before GCA fought back, but fell short in the end after committing couple of errors. A wide return from Dwayne Torres gave SIS 1 the set point in the first set.
In the second set, it was the Eagles’ turn to soar as they forced SIS 1 to make miscues, including a short return after a long rally that helped the former take a commanding 23-13 advantage. Back-to-back aces from Pajarillaga closed out the second set for the Eagles and extended the title match.