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SHARKS ARE CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS

Sharks sweep Cougars in electrifying game

By Paradis Fejerang

Two volleyball powerhouses in the Academy Cougars and Sanchez Sharks faced each other for the 2023 Girls Volleyball GSPN Champion vs. Champion matchup Thursday night at the FD Phoenix Center. 

The Cougars are this year’s Far East Volleyball Tournament and IIAAG champions whilst Sanchez is home to ISA champions and two-time ISA MVP Kayna Kanemoto. In what was expected to be a neck-and-neck game ended with the Sharks sweeping the Academy Cougars in three close sets 29-27, 27-25, 25-20.

Starting Lineups

Academy of Our Lady of Guam

Megan Camacho (10) Outside

Ariana Cruz (11) Setter – Captain

Landen DeVera (10) Outside

Natasha Kelly (11) Middle

Mercedes Mendiola-Cruz (11) Middle

Isabella Paulino (12) Libero – Captain

Hinengi San Nicolas (11) Opposite

Simon Sanchez

Erin Clemena (10) Middle

Ginelle Imbuido (12) Libero

Kayna Kanemoto (12) Middle – Captain

Lyrwana Mugol (10) Outside

Katherine Pineda (11) Outside

Reiven Rivera (12) Opposite

Breanna Simina (9) Setter

First Set

The Cougars carried the pace of the first game with Mercedes Mendiola-Cruz serving the first fourpoints of the game until Kanemoto was able to break through her opponent’s streak with an untouchable spike that carried on to nabbing a personal total of six kills for just the first set.

Sanchez stayed behind but started finding its rhythm when Academy reached 10 points, refusing to let the Cougars gain more than five points on them before catching back up. As soon as the Sharks caught up to the 10-point mark, neither school allowed the other to stray far as both were unable to advance much at all before the score was tied back up.

Once the score reached 24-24, the teams fought with the hope of not giving up their first set as the score was carried onto a wild 29-27. Round on round of impressive plays from both sides of the net were cut off when Shark Hazelle Derbai delivered the set-point ace and secured her team the first win.

Second Set

The Sharks were riding their wave as Phaedra Taijeron led them with consistently strong serves that the Cougars struggled to return. 

After their opponents got five easy points on them right from the start, Academy’s Natasha Kelly showed an eager spirit to win their first points of the set with some moves of her own in the hopes of getting her team back into their groove. Kanemoto seemed to take Kelly’s energy as a challenge as the set turned into a game between the two of them for the most thrilling kills in the match. 

This change of pace proved useful for the Cougars as, although they allowed the Sharks to gain a notable lead, Academy was able to turn their losing gap into the leading score.

Despite reaching the end-indicating point (24), the Cougars lost their lead to their opponents comeback with a final score of 27-25. These final points for Sanchez being largely supported by Kanemoto’s killer serves to overpower the Cougars until the end.

Third Set

As the third set began, Academy was evidently tired and deflated, losing point after point from simple mistakes. The sleepy Cougars were visibly affected by a daunting Sharks crowd and lost the final set with a score of 20 to Sanchez’s 25.

The Cougars were a sight to behold in terms of gameplay from the most eye catching spikes, bumps, and saves in the first two sets – the final set of the night proved to be the Sharks time to show off as seemingly every member of the team was able to have a moment in the spotlight, most impressively their freshman setter who was able to deliver the game-winning kill over the Cougars.

Two-Time MVP: Kayna Kanemoto

Having won the title as ISA’s female MVP for high school volleyball her junior year, Kanemoto has been excited in knowing she received the title again for her closing season.

Not only this, but all the accomplishments that she has been able to achieve with her team, such as beating the Cougars in this final match against the champions of the IIAAG league. Throughout the entirety of her final season, Kanemoto has faced her opponents with humility, seeing every team she has gone up against as impressive and worthy opponents that deserve every effort in being played against.

“I wasn’t expecting any of this, but I was pushing myself,” Kanemoto shares. She has been striving to achieve this goal once she knew it was in reach and is ecstatic to have found herself where she is.

Kanemoto and the Sharks are now Champion of Champions!

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