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By Bucky Brennan

Sometimes in sports, the playmakers are overshadowed by the play-finishers. But this year, Stephanie Bordallo shines at the setting position as coaches throughout the IIAAG Girls Volleyball League have named her Most Valuable Player and member of the 2012 All-Island First Team.

Stephanie Bordallo, MVP

On Monday, coaches from both divisions met at Simon Sanchez High School to make this year’s selections. According to IIAAG by laws, coaches may nominate their own players, but cannot cast their one vote per position for their own players. (Coaches select the MVP from the first team selectees and in that vote, can select their players).

Joining Academy’s Bordallo on the First Team are her Cougar teammates: Ladera Linn (outside hitter), Gemilie Ilao (right side hitter), and Celeste Guarin (libero), the remaining three 2012 All-Island position honors go to Sanchez’s Edelene Cruz (outside hitter) and Giselle Kho (middle blocker), and St. John’s Destiny Castro (middle blocker).

Stephanie Bordallo – Setter, Senior, Academy Cougars

Bordallo was a big part of the Cougars’ Best League Record Performance. While it helps having a productive offense, Bordallo’s setting took the Cougars to another level as in any rotation, they are dangerous. Bordallo excelled in a roll often overlooked as the booming kills and daring digs are the highlights that most appeal to fans. But often, without a GREAT setter like Bordallo, those things are absent. Bordallo’s presence on the court brings a sense of calm to the chaos. Her release is so smooth and precise that hitters can base and alter their timing without having to worry about bad sets. This gave the Cougars the luxury of setting the pace of their games throughout the season. The pace and momentum in volleyball are valuable tools that teams vie for control over as when games are close, momentum shifts and pace changes could mean the difference between a victory and three-set loss. Bordallo, who was a 2nd Team All-Island setter last season, will lead the Cougars in their quest for the title as they look to avenge last year’s championship game loss and second place finish.

Ladera Linn

Ladera Linn – Outside Hitter, Junior, Academy Cougars

As a junior, Linn is one of the most feared hitters in the league and a returning 1st Team All-Island member. Her approach and perfect contact with the ball every time make her a dangerous weapon any coach would love to have, but hate to face. When Ladera makes good contact (almost every time) her kills are pounded to open space and leave the defense little time to react. Linn has also shown her great mind for volleyball as several of her kills in the second half of the season came from finesse shots to open space. She has a knack for powering through blocks and has crushed many-a-kill off the tall blockers of league opponents. Ladera has also shown she’s a valuable defensive asset as well. She covers lots of the back-court and reads hitters across the board. Look for Linn to be a powerhouse in the playoffs for the Cougars.

Gemilie Ilao makes the winning kill against GW. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Gemilie Ilao – Right-Side Hitter, Junior, Academy Cougars

Ilao is another Cougar feared throughout the league who was a 2nd Team All-Island player a year ago. Playing opposite the setter, Ilao had the opportunity to swing and kill from the right side. On the court when needed, she was a setter if Bordallo was in trouble or out of the play. Ilao is a smart player who uses her knowledge of the game to dictate the plays she makes. She has a strong floating serve that racked up aces in several games. When in trouble, Ilao was a junior leader the Cougars could depend on to buckle down and get the big, tough points. Look to Ilao to be pivotal to Academy’s success in the playoffs.

Celeste Guarin – Libero, Junior, Academy Cougars

Rounding out the four Cougars in the First Team is Celeste Guarin. Guarin plays libero, a commonly forgotten position. Coaches, however, could not forget Guarin’s knack for being in the right place all the time. She seemed to be in tune with the Academy blockers and always moved to the space they left open. With the likes of Guarin in the back court, look for the Cougar’s defense to be the highlight of their playoff hopes.

Edelene Cruz – Outside Hitter, Senior, Sanchez Sharks the defending champions, the Sharks finish atop the Taga Division in this year’s regular season and are hungry for another championship. That hunger is evident in the play of Sanchez’s senior captain Cruz, who was a 2nd Team Middle Blocker last year. She was not only a player on the Sharks team, she epitomizes everything they are. She is calm and collected, but also tough, powerful and willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. Cruz makes great contact, but hits smart. When the Sharks need a point or have to kill an opponent’s momentum, you can bet that Cruz is in the mix. Cruz is also a mainstay in the back court. Loose balls rarely fall if she is in the vicinity. She commonly dives and risk body and limb to keep balls from falling on Sanchez’s side of the net. Often times, this meant the difference in games as led by Cruz’s example, the Sharks’ defense was unparalleled among league opponents. Cruz’s leadership and inspirational play will be essential to Sanchez’s repeat-championship hopes.

Giselle Kho leans into the ball to pick up a serve-receive against the Geckos. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Giselle Kho – Middle Blocker, Senior, Sanchez Sharks

The returning 1st Team All-Island selectee is another reason the Sharks finish the season in first. Her dominance at the net both on offense and defense are a constant headache for opponent coaching. Kho is also extremely agile which allows Sanchez to run complex moves and plays that confuse and eliminate opposition blockers from impacting their offense. Kho slides and can hit the low and quick sets, but also swings well when in the back row. Her dominating block closes many low-seam options for opposition hitters. When Kho’s in the game, Sanchez’s defense can protect the court with minimal effort as Kho’s block does the rest. If her net-dominance continues, other teams will have a hard time finding offensive success when Kho’s at the net.

St. John’s Destiny Castro goes up for a kill against the Panthers. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Destiny Castro – Middle Blocker, Freshman, St. John’s Knights

As the only freshman honored with All-Island First Team honors, Castro’s performance in the regular season mesmerized many league coaches and fans alike. Castro’s athletic ability makes her blocking presence not only effective, but also intimidating to league opponents. She is also a great passer and very tough on defense. When Castro is at the net, the Knights can run complex plays as she can hit the quick sets and the higher looping sets that call for her to slide. St. John’s can only imagine how better she can be as she continues to develop as a player.

Second Team

Setter: Anisa Nedlic, Okkodo (12) returning honorable mention
Libero: Shania Aguon, Sanchez (11)
Right Side Hitter: Kae’ Ana Camacho, Sanchez (12)
Middle Blocker: Amanda Torres, JFK (12) returning honorable mention
Middle Blocker: Danielle Sherwin, Academy (12)
Outside Hitter: Paige Surber, Southern (12)
Outside Hitter: Kristin Sapp, JFK (11)

Honorable Mention

Setter: Alex McCarroll, St. John’s (11); Kayla Blend (10), Guam High; Jasmine Cruz, JFK (12)
Libero: Kayana Leon Guerrero, GW (10)
Middle Blocker: Zea Nauta, GW (11)
Outside Hitter: Devin Johnson, St. John’s (12)
Outside Hitter: Muneka Taisipic, Notre Dame (10)

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