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The GW Geckos have reclaimed their volleyball crown as they denied the Cougars a chance at a repeat after gutting out three straight sets to upend to win the title after dropping the first one.

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By Robert Balajadia

The UOG Field House was jam packed with fans, cameras were broadcasting the game for Docomo Pacific viewers on live television, and the GW Geckos, against the odds, defeated the Academy Cougars in four sets, in a best of five series, to take home the 2014 IIAAG Girls Volleyball Championship trophy.

After dropping the first set 25-15, the Geckos shook off early nerves and responded in the loudest way possible by besting the Cougars in three straight sets 25-23, 25-16, 25-21.

Geckos junior Jasmine Almoguera took home MVP honors after cashing in a memorable 3rd and 4th set as her and the young cast of volleyball stars toppled the favored Cougars.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” admitted Almoguera on winning the title. “We told each other we were going to fight from the second set on because we wanted it so bad.”

The anticipated match up between rivals of the sport could not have drawn a bigger crowd with the Field House seemingly split with Geckos and Cougar fans, arguably the two most crowd-packed teams in a volleyball setting.

Geckos head coach Bobbi Quinata held high the 1st place plaque after going through a drought in the past four years with the title eluding her grasp since the 2010 season. Quinata knew they were the underdogs and instead feeling slighted, the veteran coach let her girls play like the underdogs.

“It’s always going to come down to who wants it most and who is going to play the better game. I told the girls we have nothing to lose and [the Cougars] do. I told them ‘you want what they have and if you want it then you have to go and get it’,” said coach Bobby. “My team is full of go-getters and I’m really proud of them because we worked really hard to get here.”

Cougars Jasie Villanueva won CO-MVP of the league during All-Island selections, though her and many of the dangerous hitters that Academy had were often neutralized, in large part due to the game plan that Quinata had set up for them.

“That’s exactly what we did, they have a lot of hitters,” said Quinata on focusing on the Cougars hitters. “We have good hitters to, but we just had to play smarter ball.”

Cougars head coach Manny Guarin noted that one of his key’s to victory was to control the free ball, which Academy had difficulty doing. Geckos Middle blockers Almoguera and Samantha Quinata were first to the free ball which gave the Geckos the advantage in the later sets.

GW Geckos head coach Bobby Quinata walks off with her team after taking the 2014 title. (photo by Rock Anciano)

GW Geckos head coach Bobbi Quinata walks off with her team after taking the 2014 title. (photo by Rock Anciano)

1st Set

The Cougars rode a momentous wave at the start of the game and to no surprise did they come out with a dominant first set victory.

Instrumental to the set win was Cougars Juliana Nelson, who served three straight aces to turn a 13-10 lead into a 19-11 lead. Cougars senior Cydni Scott and sophomore Joie Blas flexed their size up the middle as each took to the free ball to help the Cougars crust to a 25-15 win.

2nd set

GW then got an early lift from Sia Duenas as she helped the Geckos jump out to a quick 5-1 lead, getting two serve aces in the process.

Academy would battle back with Blas getting a kill to give the Cougars the lead at 12-10 after both teams gave away points with errors.

Geckos Colleen Quinata put the Geckos up 17-15 with a shot from the outside, but the Cougars answered right back after capitalizing on a Scott block to knot the game at 17. Nelson then went to work getting an ace to go up 19-17 with the Cougars appearing to get enough momentum to close out the set.

Back-to-back errors by the Geckos allowed the Cougars to go up 22-19.

Following an error from Academy, Geckos Samantha Quinata hammered home a shot to get within one point 22-21, followed by pair of Cougar errors to tie the game at 23. Cougars Blas overshot a kill attempt to put the Geckos up 24-23, allowing Duenas to get a good shot on the final point, which was blocked by Blas but didn’t stay inbounds.

“Like any other team there are holes in the defense and I just needed to find it,” said Colleen on her role. “This team always tends to dig a hole for ourselves, but then we always dig ourselves out and that’s what I love about this team, we never give up.”

Geckos Samantha Quinata skies to take advantage of a free ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Geckos Samantha Quinata skies to take advantage of a free ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

3rd set

Almoguera got a big block on Scott to begin the set which would be a recurring theme throughout.

Colleen Quinata and Almoguera traded off with blocks and kills to quickly put GW up 5-0 with Deunas at the helm serving.

The Cougars got a showing of Villanueva as she picked up a kill to trim the Gecko lead 11-5, but Almoguera stuffed Scott twice more to eventually put GW up 19-9.

Down 22-12, Scott appeared to be leading a comeback charge while serving as the Cougars went on a 4-0 run with Scott picking up an ace in the run.

GW settled down and fired back with Samyra Duenas setting a pretty ball to Samantha Quinata, who smashed home a 23-16 lead which allowed GW to close out the set to win 25-16, taking the two set lead.

“We weren’t over or under confident, so we just needed to stay calm,” said Almoguera on challenging the Cougars hitters. “It feels really good to come through when my team needed me and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone so I told myself I needed to play hard.”

Geckos Libero Ana Aguon digs deep for the ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Geckos Libero Ana Aguon digs deep for the ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

4th set

A back and forth early battle was separated by Almoguera as she picked up back to back blocks on Scott, while taking advantage of a free ball to go up 7-4. Almoguera then picked up a block on Villanueva later in the set to go up 10-7 while receiving a wealth of cheers from the giant Gecko crowd.

Scott then went to work, picking up a block plays later to trim the score 13-12, but Sam Quinata made it a short lived spark as she smacked a ball right past the Cougar front line on a free ball to keep GW ahead.

The frustrated Villanueva took to MVP form on a kill to break a tie, giving the Cougars a 17-16 lead, followed by a Scott ace to go up by two.

Sam Quinata then rose above, seizing three straight free balls to put GW up 20-18. Cougars Blas squashed the run, eventually tying the game at 20 with a hard hit up the middle.

The Cougars then committed three straight errors which was followed by a Duenas to Duenas (setter Samyra to older sister Sia) kill to put GW up 23-20 while forcing Guarin to call a timeout.

An excellent save eventually allowed the Cougars to stay alive at 23-21, but GW put the pressure on by going up 24-21.

A kill attempt by the Cougars was well defended by Geckos Ana Aguon which allowed outside hitter Sia Duenas to get a great set from her younger sister Samyra as Sia was met at the net by Blas again, but the attempted block did not bounce in favor of the Cougars, going straight out of bounds as the Geckos stormed the court to soak in their first title since 2010.

“I just wanted to keep my team happy and all game long I was telling them we could do this, and we did it,” said Duenas on hitting the final point to bring home the title. “We started communicating more in the final three sets and shook off all nerves.”

MVP Jasmine Almoguera being interviewed on LIVE TV - Docomo Pacific Channel 2. (photo by Rock Anciano)

GSPN Player of the Game Jasmine Almoguera being interviewed by GSPN CEO Patrick Lujan on LIVE TV – Docomo Pacific Channel 2. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Consolation Game

ND def Southern in four sets to claim 3rd place.

1st set: 28-26 ND

2nd set: 25-16 ND

3rd set: 25-23 Southern

4th set: 25-22 ND


Wil Castro

Geckos Jasmine Almoguera prepares for the incoming serve. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Geckos Jasmine Almoguera prepares for the incoming serve. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Cougars setter Mya Sanchez saves a ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Cougars setter Mya Sanchez saves a ball. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Cougars Jasie Villanueva scores a point for her team. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Cougars Jasie Villanueva scores a point for her team. (photo by Rock Anciano)

(photo by Rock Anciano)

The Championship volleyball game officiating crew – Dan Hattig, Luis Mesngon, Luci Calvo and Joel Quitugua. (photo by Rock Anciano)


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