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RAIDERS ROLL OVER PERFECT KNIGHTS

The St. John’s Knights girls volleyball undefeated streak came to an exciting end as the St. Anthony Raiders handed the Knights their first loss of the season Thursday evening in two sets at the Raider gym in Tamuning in a middle school volleyball action.

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By Robert Balajadia

The St. John’s Knights girls volleyball undefeated streak came to an exciting end as the St. Anthony Raiders handed the Knights their first loss of the season Thursday evening in just two sets 25-19, 25-23 at the Raider gym in Tamuning in middle school volleyball action.

The Raiders (6-1) have now tied for first place with the Knights, who drop to (7-1).

Though pressure for the Raiders was admitted to be at an all-time high, nothing felt better to Nicole Gandaoli and her team than when she served an ace to seal the victory after the Knights battled from 12 points down to eventually tie the game in the second set.

“It felt really great, because it made up for when I messed up,” said Gandaoli on the winning point. “We were very nervous because we really just want to win the championship and we played with all our hearts.”

St. Anthony got a big lift off the bench to start the second set with strong serves from Therese Fegurgur, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. The Knights briefly ended the Raider run, but Isabel Itliong-Cruz and Gandaoli each handed the Knights a pair of aces as St. Anthony rolled on to a 16-5 lead.

St Anthony Jacqueline Martinez passes the ball to her setter in the first set. (photo by Joey Blas)

St. Anthony’s Jacqueline Martinez passes the ball to her setter in the first set. (photo by Joey Blas)

The Knights were then hit with a formation penalty to give the Raiders their 17th point, 17-5, when coach Chris Shepherd took a timeout to recollect his girls.

St. John’s responded in the biggest way possible as they chipped away at the large Raider lead, led by Hana Fernandez and Elizabeth Errett, to get within 19-12. Itliong-Cruz got a kill to go up 20-12 with the Raiders aiming to close out the game.

Errors by the Raiders allowed the Knights to score five straight points to get within 20-17 with the Knights fans cheering on their comeback effort. Fernandez served her team back into just a one-point game 21-20, but errors allowed the Raiders to get a 23-20 lead.

The Knights served the game into a tie at 23 until an error and an ace by Gandaoli ended the Knights perfect run.

Itliong-Cruz was instrumental all game by keeping the Knights at bay, scoring points that broke the Knights runs in the wild second set.

“We just put trust in each other, we’re one team and one family and we don’t blame one another for anything. This was a really big game, fighting for first place, but now that it’s over we can relax a little bit,” said Itliong-Cruz.

Raiders thank the parents for watching a good game as they go on to defeat St. John's in two sets. (photo by Joey Blas)

Raiders thank the parents for watching a good game as they go on to defeat St. John’s in two sets. (photo by Joey Blas)

Rayven Benavente led the charge in the first set after a kill, followed by an ace, that gave the Raiders a 15-7 lead. Both teams would trade points back and forth until the Raiders made a momentum swinging play that helped them close out the first set.

Hallie Wigsten appeared to have a kill on hand until Raiders Kirsten Silva and Jackie Martinez made the save of the game as they both went out of bounds to save a seemingly dead ball that got the crowd on their feet, giving the Raiders a 20-16 lead after the Knights struggled to get the ball back over. Itliong-Cruz served the final point in the set to win it 25-19.

The Raiders now have one final game against the Santa Barbara Spartans next Tuesday where a win will secure, at least, a tie for first place.

PHOTO GALLERY:

Raiders Nicole Gandaoli makes a nice set to team mate for the kill. (photo by Joey Blas)

Raiders Nicole Gandaoli makes a nice set to team mate for the kill. (photo by Joey Blas)

St John's Hallie Wigsten jumps and makes a nice hit to find a gap for the side out. (photo by Joey Blas)

St John’s Hallie Wigsten jumps and makes a nice hit to find a gap for the side out. (photo by Joey Blas)

St. John's Hana Fernandez serves against St Anthony in the first set. (photo by Joey Blas)

St. John’s Hana Fernandez serves against St Anthony in the first set. (photo by Joey Blas)

St. John's Hallie Wigsten makes a nice save in the middle to end the Raiders rally. (photo by Joey Blas)

St. John’s Hallie Wigsten makes a nice save in the middle to end the Raiders rally. (photo by Joey Blas)

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