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COUGARS CRUISE TO TITLE

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By Niko BulaonThe Cougars lift up their libero Celeste Guarin celebrating their IIAAG girls volleyball championship victory. (photo by Jesse Castro)

After multiple seasons of disappointment and upsets, the Academy Cougars finally took back the title of IIAAG Girls Volleyball champions since 2005 after they defeated the defending champion Southern Dolphins in two easy sets, 25-16, 25-13 Friday night at the JFK gym in front of a huge Academy crowd.

“I’ve never wanted anything more in my life,” said Cougars All-Island hitter Ladera Linn about taking home the trophy. “I feel ecstatic.”

The Cougars brought the ambition and power, taking over both sets from beginning to end. At the start of the first, Cougars middle blocker Erin Wong quickly set the tone, blasting two kills straight into the Dolphins’ territory. But Southern wasn’t going down without a fight; an ace by Tianna Sakaba put her team in the game.

With Southern scrambling for points, the Cougars stepped up to show their true capability behind power hitter Linn, sending five of her seven kills in the first set, but multiple errors by Academy put Southern behind their opponents. A kill by Dolphins April Talledo sparked a quick Dolphin run until two back-to-back aces by Leah Castro put Academy back in focus.

Cougar Erin Wong blocks Dolphin April Talledo's attack. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Cougar Erin Wong blocks Dolphin April Talledo’s attack. (photo by Jesse Castro)

With the score at 22-13, after another kill by Wong, an error by the Cougars and two back-to-back aces by Ciera Aguon forced a timeout to be called by Cougars coach Manny Guarin. Coming back in, it wasn’t long till Linn fired another kill and Academy ended the first set with two quick aces by Jasie Villanueva.

“We had no choice,” replied Linn about cutting Southern’s run. “This is our last game, this is my last game as a senior; it was all or nothing. We just really had no other choice.”

By the second set, the Cougars wasted no time to get to the trophy. Behind three aces from Celeste Guarin and a block by Wong, Academy took a 9-0 lead until a serving error put the Dolphins on the scoreboard. But another kill by Wong and several errors from Southern kept the Cougars in the lead, 16-4. Miscommunications and mistakes by Academy kept their opponents in the game, but kills by Linn and Villanueva pushed their team’s lead, 22-9.

Trying to stay in the game, the Dolphins sent a quick kill from Aguon and an ace by Leona King, but a kill from Cyndi Scott and untimely errors by the Dolphins gave Academy the win and the championship trophy.

“Countless hours of practice and our coach really picked great drills of us to do,” said Linn, “It prepared us specifically for Southern.”

GSPN's Player of the Game Ladera Linn. (photo by Jesse Castro)

GSPN’s Player of the Game Ladera Linn. (photo by Jesse Castro)

The seniors of Academy faced tough disappointments through their high school volleyball career. As a freshman in 2010, the Cougars made it all the way to the finals only to be defeated by the underdogs, the St. John’s Knights. Sophomore year in 2011, the Cougars took their talent to the finals yet again, only to be defeated by the Sanchez Sharks. Last year, Academy faced possibly the biggest upset in IIAAG girls’ volleyball history, being defeated by the fourth-ranked JFK Islanders in the quarterfinals. But with limitless determination comes the prize; Linn stated, “It feels amazing not to be disappointed. We’ve been through so many losses these past years and to finally win feels amazing.”

Linn led her team with seven kills and teammate Wong contributed with four kills and a block in the match that took just 36 minutes to complete.

Third Place Match

The St. John’s Knights defeated the Sanchez Sharks in two sets, 25-20, 25-18. Knights’ Adriana Chang led her team with six kills and two aces. In the losing effort, Sharks Kristin Artero led her team with four kills and two aces of her own.

 

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

http://www.akguam.com/ou/tamuning-scion/

Cougar fans stand up and cheer as the rest of the team heads out to center court. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins Lorraina Sanchez spikes the ball into Cougars blocker Erin Wong. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins Lorraina Sanchez spikes the ball into Cougars blocker Erin Wong. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Cougars libero Celeste Guarin bump passes the Dolphins serve to her setter. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Cougars libero Celeste Guarin bump passes the Dolphins serve to her setter. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Cougars setter Leah Castro puts the ball up for a middle hit. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Cougars setter Leah Castro puts the ball up for a middle hit. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins Brittany Quinata passes a Cougars serve to her setter. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins Brittany Quinata passes a Cougars serve to her setter. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins April Talledo goes up to spike the ball as the Cougars Cyndi Scott attempts to block the attack. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Dolphins April Talledo goes up to spike the ball as the Cougars Cyndi Scott attempts to block the attack. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Academy All-Islander Ladera Linn spikes the ball down the line for the kill. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Academy All-Islander Ladera Linn spikes the ball down the line for the kill. (photo by Jesse Castro)

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