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GW WINS NAIL-BITER

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By Bucky Brennan

The GW Lady Geckos traveled to Academy Friday night to face the Cougars for their first meeting of the 2012 Girls Volleyball season. Anyone who knows high school volleyball on Guam knows that when these two teams meet, it truly is a clash of the titans.

Geana Leon Guerrero goes up for the kill against Academy blocker Dani Sherwin. (photo by Jesse Castro)

After three sets, the Geckos emerged victorious and the standing room only crowd was treated to an action-packed evening of great volleyball 23-25, 25-16, 25-20.

GW’s Zea Nauta spikes the ball against Academy’s defender Dani Sherwin. (photo by Jesse Castro)

The story of the first set was nerves, both teams came out of the gate giving up points on unforced errors and easy turnovers. The teams traded leads the whole set.

Midway through with the score at 15-13 in Academy’s favor, Cougar Ladera Linn had a huge kill off a GW block that looked to turn the momentum in Academy’s favor. However, two errors by the Cougars and a huge block by GW’s Zea Nauta put the serve in Geana Leon Guerrero’s hands. Leon Guerrero served two straight aces to make the score 18-16 with the Geckos in the lead. Academy went on a run with the help of unforced errors on GW’s side.

With the score at 21-18 for Academy, Leon Guerrero hammered a kill from the back row to make the score 21-19. Errors by both sides brought the game to 24-23 for Academy and on the next play GW’s serving error ended the set with Academy going up 1-0.

While the story of the first set was nerves, the story of the second set was discipline. After the two-minute break between sets, the Geckos came out firing looking to even up the score. They opened the set with a six-point run to make the score 7-1. Tisha Aguigui led the way serving up two aces and hammering two kills. Nauta added a kill and a block and Leon Guerrero got a kill in as well. From there it was all Gecko volleyball as their discipline on the court allowed them to control the pace of the game. GW would eventually go up 15-3 as the combination of Nauta, Aguigui and Leon Guerrero was too much for the  Cougars. The closest the Cougars got from there was nine points from the lead and GW easily took the second set 25-16.

Academy’s Gemilie Ilao gets a hit past GW’s Tisha-Renee Aguigui. (photo by Jesse Castro)

After the game, Aguigui said, “We always look forward to Academy, they’re a good, well-coached team and when they’re at their best, they’re tough.”

And tough they were. With the Geckos coming off their second set win, the story of the third set was momentum.  The Geckos looked to the seniors Nauta, Aguigui and junior Leon Guerrero for a lot of the hard points.

Leon Guerrero said, “I don’t let the pressure bother me, I’ve learned to just play the game, my game.”

Aguigui was the same saying, “Our coach always tells us ‘Encourage, don’t discourage,’ that’s how we play, we pick each other up.”

And they did just that, the three led the way in the third set. GW looked to continue on the wave of momentum from the second, behind strong play and kills from Nauta and Aguigui, the Geckos led 8-2. GW errors and strong defense from the Cougars saw them come back and bring the score to 8-6. Aguigui was having none of that though. She put in a kill off the block to get the Gecko momentum going again.

GW’s Maricia Mariano set’s up for a bump pass for her team. (photo by Jesse Castro)

With the score later at 11-10 for GW, Academy’s Linn made her presence in the front known. She hammered three kills that, coupled with GW errors putting the score at 15-12 for Academy. Nauta then swatted a kill on a Cougar overpass and on the next play made a very acrobatic tip with her back to the net to bring the momentum back to GW’s side. The teams traded leads again until Nauta had a huge block to put the Geckos up 19-18. This turned out to be the final momentum shift needed as the Geckos rode the wave and took the set and the game 25-20.

For the Geckos, Leon Guerrero had four kills and four aces, Aguigui tallied six kills and three aces and Nauta added four blocks, six kills and a tip. Gecko setter Elayne Padayao had a great night adding 18 assists, four aces, two tips and a kill.

In the losing effort, Linn had seven kills and two aces while Gemilie Ilao added three kills and a tip.

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