WELCOME RETURN TO COMPETITION
The frequent high-fives, the beaming smiles, the relentless hustle plays, and loud call for the ball—all indicated how much students missed interscholastic competitions.
After majority of school tournaments last year were abruptly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CNMI students welcomed with open arms the resumption of competition among their peers with the 2020-2021 Public School System Interscholastic 4v4 Beach Volleyball League kicking off last Saturday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan sand courts.
“It feels good to be back. Kind of nostalgic even though we are playing on a different field,” said Grace Christian Academy player Katriel Saures.
“The last time we played volleyball was in an indoor court at the Marianas High School Gymnasium in October 2019 and then COVID came in 2020 and everything changed. The past several months were very challenging for us students who are used to going out, getting involved in academics and sports activities,” she added.
Saures plays for GCA 2, which debuted in last weekend’s event against MHS 1. She was also part of the GCA squad that won the indoor championship in the 2019-2020 season against Saipan International School. Eight other squads are competing in this year’s interscholastic beach volleyball tournament for girls high school, while the boys division has more teams with 11.
Cesar Libut coaches both GCA 1 and 2 and though he admits it will be tougher winning the championship this year after having dominated the girls indoor volleyball for the last three seasons, he is just thankful for the opportunity to get back into play.
“This is right next to normal. Our students are given the opportunity to go out and play again as a team. It’s going to be a big adjustment because this is a sand court, but regardless, it is really just great to see kids having a good time playing the sport they love again after a very long break,” Libut said.
Meanwhile, Katrina Costales of MHS 3 said it’s a relief to finally do something together away from their computers.
“When COVID came, we’re mostly online doing school stuff. Now, it’s nice to be with our teammates, playing together outside,” the MHS senior said.
PSS Student Support Services Athletic Program director Nick Gross was present in last weekend’s kick-off and hopes that the beach volleyball competition will be the start of brighter things to come for interscholastic sports in the CNMI this year.
“We are darn excited to have this six-week adventure. The kids are starving for interscholastic sports competition,” said Gross, who had a test-run for school tournaments when he worked with Northern Marianas Athletics in holding a cross country season late last year.
Gross thanked PSS and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force for allowing them to hold the competition. He also acknowledged the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan management for providing a venue for the games and the MHS JRTOC for their logistic support.
“Everyone is pitching in to see our youth get back into sports safely,” Gross said.