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COUGARS ROAR BACK TO CAPTURE 2023 IIAAG VOLLEYBALL CROWN

Academy drops opening set then takes off

By Eriele Salas

Natasha Kelly and Hinegi San Nicolas paved the way to an Academy championship run.

The Academy Cougars take back the championship trophy in the 2023 IIAAG Girls Volleyball League season! The Cougars claimed their crown against the tough St. John’s Knights at the Father Dueñas Phoenix Center on Monday night 20-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-15.

Natasha Kelly and Hinengi San Nicolas were instrumental in bringing their team to victory. Kelly secured a total of six blocks and four kills, while San Nicolas scored a total of six kills and two aces.

After losing the first set, the Cougars were motivated to overcome that, and take it as their fuel to keep fighting. They knew that the Knights were going to be tough to go against because of their experience as well, but after bouncing back from that loss, they didn’t look back. 

1st set

St. John’s came onto the court with fierce determination to put up a fight against the Cougars. Knowing Academy wanted it as badly as they did, the Knights didn’t give the win to them so easily. 

“Be confident about what we’re doing, stick to our fundamentals, and continue to be consistent with what we do,” is what St. John’s assistant head coach Arvin Flores told the Knights before stepping onto the court. 

Both teams at the start were seeking to get a lead, and eventually the Knights would claim that. The Cougars had quite a rough start, with most attempted kills, blocks and shanks heading out of the bounds. This, along with the great defense from St. John’s Jada Ada-Vibar and Ella Wigsten, and the killer shots from Knessa Davis, assisted the Knights in managing to stay ahead.

On game point, the Knights gave their all, and thanks to a shank from the Cougars, they successfully won their one and only set.

2nd set

Since losing the previous set, Academy became even more determined to win. The Cougars came into the set with a winning attitude and gave it their absolute best. 

Cougars Natasha Kelly, Hinengi San Nicolas, Ariana Cruz and Mercedes Mendiola-Cruz gathered a total of four kills, two aces and one block. While they did acquire such a number, St. John’s Shihori Fujisaki was instrumental in keeping some plays going with her consistent defense. 

The Cougars managed to slide right past the Knights by a few points, and Academy’s Cruz got a final ace on them, giving the Cougars their first of three set wins.  

“They’re our equals…they’re a very talented team and they wanted to win it just as badly as us, so it was really anybody’s game,” said head coach of the Cougars, Manny Guarin. And it truly was anyone’s game at this point with the set score being tied. 

3rd set

Academy didn’t let the two-minute break distract them from the fact that they needed to win this set. Winning the second set only gave the Cougars more power over the Knights, and they kept a good lead from them. 

Falling behind by 11 points, St. John’s decided to play their game more safely and took it easy on their attempts. This only gave Academy the upperhand to take more points from them, both offensively and defensively. 

A combined score of two blocks, five kills and four aces from the Cougars gave them the chance to snatch this set from the Knights. Due to an out-of-bounds serve from the Knights, Academy’s San Nicolas dropped an ace on them, winning their second set. 

4th set

Knight Ava Ouhadi brought her team up by six points early on, but a kill from the Cougars would eventually ruin that streak. 

Not many Knights had a great number of kills, and that’s thanks to Academy’s Isabella Paulino’s defense. The Cougars were scrambling for the ball, but they made it work nonetheless. The Knights had the opportunity to catch up as they were falling behind the Cougars, but unluckily for them, it was on Academy’s game point. 

The roaring crowds of Academy and St. John’s supporters cheered on as the Knights were about to serve. With all the pressure, they weren’t able to make it over, and the Cougars were finally dubbed the champions of the 2023 IIAAG season. 

“I just want to thank my coaches for guiding us and leading us to where we are now,” said Cougar San Nicolas. “They’re our glue that keeps us together, and also God because I play for him too,” said Kelly. 

CHAMPION V CHAMPION

GSPN has been granted the approval to hold the 2023 Champion v Champion game tentatively scheduled for mid November after teams return from post season tournaments. The Cougars advance to that game to take on the champion of the ISA league. Stay tuned for more details later.

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COMING SOON …

  • IIAAG Girls Basketball Playoffs

 

QUICK HITS

The Kings were crowned the Guam Amateur Baseball League champions, finishing the season undefeated.
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The Guam Smokin’ Hot women’s softball team captured first place in the Asia Cup Softball Championships 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand.

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