By Jeffrey Ochavillo
For a game that lasted six sets, the UOG Tritons stood strong and were able to hold down Team Kotte to prevent a ‘Cinderella Story’ as they took the win in the ‘if game’ at the UOG Calvo Field House and took the honor as champions of this year’s GHRA Volleyball tournament. The Tritons spurned Kotte in the final game Monday evening 25-21, 23-25, 17-15.
Coming into the final set was a thriller with both teams beginning to trade point-for-point, keeping the game tight. Unforced errors plagued both teams as neither could get a solid lead. Devin Maluwelmeng carried the Tritons with his thunderous kills, which countered Kotte’s Sean Perez, and Jon Chaco’s front row attacks.
The Tritons were able to get ahead 9-7 with Kendra Byrd’s deep serve to the corner, plus the hitting errors from Kotte, but Chaco responded immediately with a kill of his own. Great defense was on display by Perez and Sonda Yatar after each got low to dig shots from Maluwelmeng and Aaron Blaz until the ball dropped into Triton territory after miscommunication to tie the game at 9 apiece.
Moments later, the Tritons were up again 13-11 after another angle kill by Maluwelmeng. Kotte caught another break when the refs called a carry on the Tritons, plus a play where Sean Perez snuck into the middle for a quick set for a kill to tie the game at 13.
Maluwelmeng got up and took a toll on the blockers as the ball ricocheted out of bounds, but Chaco answered back once more with another cross-court kill to tie the game at 14.
Coming down to the wire, you could feel the intensity between the teams in being that the smallest mistake could be fatal. After receiving a free ball, the Tritons quickly utilized it and gave a set to Aaron Blaz, who leaped outside for a kill down the line to put them at game point (16- 14).
But for the final play of the game, after another long rally, Kotte was caught by surprise after receiving numerous hard hits. Ryan Eugenio used his length to trick the defense and went for a short roll as no one was able to reach for the ball for a dig thus ending the game at 17-15, crowning them this year’s GHRA Volleyball champions.
“We just had to play our game. From the beginning we needed to work on our passing and communication because those were what killed us throughout the game,” replied Maluwelmeng on Monday nights game performance.
Coming into the first set with both teams trying to gain momentum, it was the Tritons who took the leap with a 20-13 lead off of heavy hitters from Maluwelmeng, Aaron Blaz, and Eugenio. Unforced errors only allowed Kotte to fall even more behind the Tritons thus giving them the set at 25-21 after a block by Kendra Byrd.
In the second set, Kotte wasn’t going to fall so easily. This time, the unforced errors were on the Tritons, therefore, Kotte was able to get a 19-15 lead with Chaco finding openings on the court, plus Ryan Balajadia’s service streak to keep them in the comfort zone.
Even at game point, the Tritons were clinching a near comeback with Mike Herreros going up to the net to fight for joust and pushed his team up to 23. But another missed error by Alejandro Retumban Jr., gave the set to the Kotte (25-23).
Coming into the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association Volleyball Tournament championship game, the UOG Tritons were up in the winners bracket and only needed one win to take the trophy. However, team Kotte pushed the Tritons to their limits and near the edge as they surprised the gym by knocking them off the winners bracket and chasing them down to the double-elimination game (16-25, 25-12, 15-8).
Kotte got passed the Tritons by surprise in what was supposed to be the final game, with Sean Perez and John Chaco being very instrumental in the defensive and offensive attacks. But the heavy hitter Devin Maluwelmeng was just too much to handle as he went off the rafters recording kill-after-kill.
Maluwelmeng replied shortly with a smile, “Overall it was a good game. It was a really close game and well played by both time, but it feels good to get the win tonight.”
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