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BULLDOGS CAPTURE EMOTIONAL REPEAT

The Okkodo Bulldogs were playing with heavy hearts and it carried them through each thrilling set as they defeated the GW Geckos in the boys volleyball finals to repeat as champions.

By Jay Leon Guerrero

It was a bittersweet victory for the now back-to-back IIAAG Boys High School Volleyball champion Okkodo Bulldogs after they defeated the GW Geckos for the title.

After making the final kill to win the championship, Okkodo’s Gary Aromin immediately ran to the Okkodo bench and grabbed a photo of his teammate Mikey Blaz and joined the huddle with his teammates. Blaz passed away two weeks ago; the Bulldog team buried their teammate the day before the championship game.

“I felt Mikey was out there with us tonight, he was definitely motivating and guiding us. After the final point, I just felt that he should have a piece of our success and celebrate with us,” said Aromin.

The Bulldogs won in four sets (25-23, 28-26, 22-25, 25-23) over the Geckos Thursday night at the FD Phoenix Center. The Bulldogs ended their season unblemished, winning all their games. But their main focus was not on finishing undefeated or winning back-to-back titles. The team dedicated their season to their friend and teammate, making sure each of them gave Mikey’s parents a hug after the game.

The Bulldogs race to the picture of their teammate Mikey Blaz after repeating as 2015 champs. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Bulldogs race to the picture of their teammate Mikey Blaz after repeating as 2015 champs. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

“Mikey is not here with us physically, but he was with us spiritually and that motivated us,” said outside hitter Aiden Ferrera.
Ferrera was a force from the outside, making big time kills to lift his team. Ferrera, who was named to the first all-island team, had his best all-around performance of the season leading the Bulldogs with 14 kills to go along with his 2 blocks and 2 aces.

The game was a see-saw battle, filled with long volleys and good defense by both teams. The Bulldogs may have won in four sets, but they had to fend off a strong Gecko squad that pushed them to the limit in every set.

Allen Ray ‘Arm Cannon’ Camacho anchored a strong Gecko team that left everything they had out on floor. Camacho was named the leagues MVP and he played like it with a team high 12 kills despite being faced with a pair of Bulldog blockers every time he went for a kill. The Geckos were looking for revenge after suffering their only loss of the season to the Bulldogs.

The Geckos led early in each of the first two sets only to surrender the lead late in the game to go down 0-2. Brian Crowe was a force in the middle, stuffing the stat sheet with 8 kills and 4 blocks for the Bulldogs.

Crowe, a senior, said the Geckos were a really good team but his team was a little more motivated. “It was a big crowd tonight and everyone has jitters. They came out really hard and played great,” said Crowe.

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The Game

image001The Geckos took a 5-0 lead to open up the first set. Crowe helped chop away at the early deficit and had two blocks. The Geckos still held on to a lead with Camacho and Mathew Soto providing much of the offense.

The Bulldogs slowly clawed their way back into the game and eventually managed to tie the contest late in the set. Okkodo’s Ian Ilagas helped separate the Bulldogs in the first set and had a block and a kill to set up game point which led to an eventual 25-23 first set victory.

In the second set, the Geckos again had the early advantage, leading 8-4. They maintained their lead with Camacho getting a kill for the 24-23 game point advantage in favor of the Geckos.

Bulldog setter Rai Santos went to Ferrera who hammered one down to force the deuce. The teams went back-and-forth until Ilagas clinched the game winner with a kill to win 28-26 in a thrilling second set that was filled with long volleys.

The Geckos stepped up big with their backs against the ropes in the third set. Soto and Devin San Agustin combined for four blocks which led to a five point advantage. Soto continued to score, soaring over Bulldog blockers recording four kills in the third set to hang on for the 25-22 victory.

The Bulldogs front line gets tested by the hard hitting Allen "Arm Cannon" Camacho. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Bulldogs front line gets tested by the hard hitting Allen “Arm Cannon” Camacho. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

There were six lead changes in the fourth set. The game was tied at 20-20, then the Geckos committed passing and service errors to trail 23-21. The Geckos were unable to get a side out and were faced with championship point trailing 21-24.

Soto extended their season life with a big kill to trail 22-24. But Soto’s kill was the last kill of the season after Aromin clinched the championship point with an outside hit that stayed inbounds for the 25-22 victory.

“They did great tonight, Soto was a force in the middle for them tonight,” said Aromin who had 8 kills.

Soto had a complete game with 9 kills, 4 blocks and 2 aces. Philip Siguenza contributed 5 kills for the Geckos. Ilagas had 5 kills and 3 blocks for the Bulldogs.

“We dedicate this win to Mikey’s family,” said Crowe. “It’s all for him, we love you Mikey,” said Ferrera.

In the consolation game, Marlon Evans and Isiah Lagutang led the Harvest Eagles to a four set victory over the JFK Islanders (26-24, 25-23, 18-25, 25-13) to take home the third place trophy.

PHOTO GALLERY:

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