The Better Team and MCS Knights were unscathed in last Saturday’s Hope For Tomorrow Yutu Relief Fundraiser Beach Volleyball Tournament at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan sand courts to rule their respective divisions.
The MCS Knights, who are made up of Richard Steele, Merrick Toves, Jeremiah Diaz, cousins Jennalyn and Kaia Travilla, and Fiona Bucalig, clinched the co-ed U14 age group championship. The Better Team, on the other hand, bagged the co-ed U18 division title with Bailey Spaeth, Steven Goodwin, Dayna Macaranas, and Angela Jun suiting up for the champion team
The Better Team won the division crown after pulling off a come-from-behind 21-18 victory over Dr. Pepper, which had Sunjoon Tenorio, A.J. Hudkins, Louisa Hahn, and Teeon Camacho as players. The Better Team faced a 12-16 deficit before rallying late in the finals behind the three straight points of Goodwin. Goodwin served with the match tied for the last time, 18-all, and he dropped the ball to the unguarded backline to hand The Better Team the lead. He went for his second serve and the ball appeared to be hitting the net and not going over before it finally crossed, catching Dr. Pepper’s Hahn and Tenorio off guard and moving The Better Team within a point from clinching the title. The same thing happened in Goodwin’s third serve, as his over hand hit had enough spin to climb over the net and drop in front of an unsuspecting Dr. Pepper player.
Goodwin and company finished off Dr. Pepper, which came from the loser’s bracket to challenge The Better Team in the finals. The Better Team earlier defeated Sere-vivors, Jam, and Dr. Pepper in the 15-team, double-elimination preliminary games to advance to the semifinals. The Better Team then extended its streak with a 21-16 victory over Jssakk to notch the first finals berth.
Jssakk fell to the loser’s bracket along with Dr. Pepper with the latter needing to beat Mix+Match, 15-8, and Jam, 21-11, to duel Jssakk for the second and last finals seat. Dr. Pepper went on to frustrate Jssakk in its second attempt to move into the championship game after cruising to a 21-11 win.
Meanwhile, birthday boy, Toves, scored the match point for the MCS Knights after hitting a booming spike in their 21-19 triumph against The Bump. Before Toves’ winning hit, Steele broke the last deadlock in the match with his serve.
With Steele and Toves holding their ground against the Matthew Berline-led The Bump, the MCS Knights needed only one game to beat their opponents in the finals. The MCS Knights were undefeated going into the championship game thus they earned a twice-to-bet advantage, while The Bump, which also had Dylan Mister, Kat Saures and Hye Jin Elliot on its roster, fought its way out of the loser’s bracket to move into the finals.
In the early rounds, the MCS Knights won over Aycho and The Bump to take the first finals seat. Aycho, on the other hand remained in contention after eliminating SCS and The Asians before bowing to The Bump in the battle for the last finals ticket. Saipan Geckos was the other team entered in the U14 division of the tournament organized by the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association.
NMIVA president Laurie Peterka thanked Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan, Triple J Motors, Saipan, Triple J Five Star Wholesale, Herman’s Modern Bakery, Pacific Trading Co., Marianas Young Professionals, Seatouch-Saipan, and all the volunteers, including NMIVA’s junior team for their support in the fundraiser. Nearly $900 was raised in the weekend event, while NMIVA also collected three boxes of relief goods from players and other donors.
“We can not do all this work without our community partners. Our volunteers are priceless. Our junior team pretty much ran the event today and it’s a first so we’re proud of them and looking forward to having them back for our next competition,” Peterka said.