Tatagas top boys grass v-ball

Posted on Apr 12 2021

Tanapag Middle School players and coaches pose with their perpetual trophy after winning the boys 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League last Saturday at the CPA Airport Field. Also in photo is Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association president Somia Quan, standing left. (Mark Rabago)

Tanapag Middle School won three straight do-or-die sets against elimination round topnotcher Grace Christian Academy in the finals to rule the boys 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League last Saturday at the CPA Airport Field.

The GCA Eagles were the first to advance to the championship round after beating the Tatagas in the semifinals. They previously also defeated Saipan International School 2, Francisco M. Sablan Middle School 2, and Dandan Middle School 2 in the eliminations.

Prior to losing in the semifinals, Tanapag rolled past Tinian, DMS 1, and Hopwood Middle School. The Tatagas of coach Catherine Torculas-Woodruff needed three sets to advance to the finals against GCA, after beating SIS 2.

In the finals, Jerome Manzon, Keahie Omapas, Justin Camacho, Javen Camacho, Zenn Tomokane, and Roman Teigita shook off all the fatigue from playing four straight games under the searing hot sun that day and shocked the Eagles, 25-23, in a barn-burning opening set.

Needing only a win to clinch the middle school grass volleyball diadem, GCA pushed forward in the second race-to-21. However, Manzon and company had other ideas as they wore out coach Cesar Libut’s team in the second set en route to a relatively easy 21-16 victory.

While a cat has nine lives, GCA apparently had three since they were undefeated before the finals and the Tatagas needed to win one more set to finally wrest the championship.

Tanapag players were on the defensive early in the deciding third set, as the Eagles soared like the birds of prey that they were picking on an obviously tuckered out Tatagas.

Tanapag Middle School players and coaches hug and jump in jubilation after their hard-fought victory. (Mark Rabago)

But the fish had one last gasp in them, obviously invigorated by a crucial call that went against GCA. With the Eagles in front by 4 points, 16-12, GCA’s setter was called for a violation for tossing the volleyball over the net. Under the tournament’s ground rules that was illegal so a point and the service went to Tanapag.

Torculas-Woodruff’s team took full advantage of a seemingly disheveled GCA team and rallied, scoring eight of the set’s last 10 points with the final point fittingly on a Manzon spike to clinch the championship.

Asked what it took for Tanapag to eke out gutsy wins in those three sets, Torculas-Woodruff deflected all the praises to her players.

“My players’ determination and will to win was what brought us to the championship. We had dedication, time, and effort to practice every day. Like what our principal kept reminding us, enjoy the game because it’s not about winning but the moment of the game, the memories we can bring with us, and the people we share the memories with,” she said.

Torculas-Woodruff said Manzon was really a big factor in the championship as the jovial spiker was like a coach on the court.

“My team captain Jerome Manzon helped me with this journey. Nobody knows for sure why we won because, on any given day, any given team can beat any other team. Jerome is an outstanding athlete as he understands the mental game not just the physical,” said the physical education and health teacher at Tanapag.

The 2021 boys Middle School Grass Volleyball League was organized by Nick Gross, Public School System athletic director, with help from the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association.

Results of the girls 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League between Hopwood and Tanapag will be published in tomorrow’s edition of the Saipan Tribune.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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