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TITANS LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS, WIN THIRD IN A ROW

Tiyan stands tall with another championship

By Patrick Lujan

The Tiyan Titans lived up to their high expectations this 2023 ISA Boys Volleyball League season, winning their third title in a row Saturday night over the second-seed Okkodo Bulldogs 25-17, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16.

League MVP Gerald Malana finished off his high school career with 15 kills, including the punctuation mark, his final kill down the left line that wrapped up the ISA season in championship fashion.

The Tiyan Titans celebrate their third straight ISA Boys Volleyball League trophy.

Now the Titans await the winner of Monday night’s IIAAG championship game between the Harvest Eagles and FD Friars as both champions face off on Saturday, May 20 to see who really is the best team on island.

Tiyan didn’t dominate in the manner of its 2022 edition when the Titans didn’t give up a single set in the season, but they entered each match as favorites – and Saturday was no different.

Though Malana led the way, All-Island setter Tyrone Buekis distributed the ball evenly as Noel Ericsson (9 kills), Nash Ericsson (9 kills), Isaiah Cruz (7 kills) and Skyler Blas (4 kills) all got into the action.

“We’re happy we won against a very strong opponent,” Tiyan middle blocker Isaiah Cruz said. “I’m really happy with my boys, especially Tyrone and Gerald. They really put in the work. They third set was a little rough, but I’m happy we were able to pick it up and push through all the way.”

Here’s the set-by-set championship breakdown:

1st SET

Okkodo jumped out from the gates as Dominic David served up two aces to get the night going. Both teams jockeyed to a 9-9 tie before the Titans made their first push foward.

A couple of Bulldogs errors allowed Tiyan to pull ahead 14-10. A couple of Khole Martinez aces pushed the lead to 22-16 before Buekis dropped another ace to cap off the set 25-17.

Aces: Okkodo 3 (David 2, Balbin); Tiyan 4 (Martinez 2, Aguigui, Buekis). Blocks: Okkodo 0, Tiyan 3 (Buekis 2, Cruz). Kills: Okkodo 9 (Hudtohan 3, Balbin 3, David 3); Tiyan 11 (Malana 4, Na. Ericsson 3, Cruz 2, No. Ericsson, Buekis). Unforced errors: Okkodo 8, Tiyan 4. Service errors: Okkodo 0, Tiyan 1.

Tiyan’s Isaiah Cruz and Gerald Malana fight off Okkodo’s EJ Yerten at the net during the ISA championship game. (photo by Kyle Dela Pena)

2nd SET

The Titans jumped out early and never relinquished the lead. A quick kill by Cruz had Tiyan ahead 10-6. Solid net play by Okkodo’s EJ Yerten, who had four kills in the set, kept any hopes alive for the Bulldogs, but Tiyan exchanged points down the stretch to take a 2-0 sets lead and in the driver’s seat 25-20.

Aces: Okkodo 2 (Mupas, Hudtohan); Tiyan 0. Blocks: Okkodo 0, Tiyan 1 (Malana). Kills: Okkodo 12 (Balbin 4, Yerten 4, David 2, Hudtohan, Lingat); Tiyan 12 (Malana 3, Cruz 3, Na. Ericsson 3, No. Ericsson 2, Blas). Unforced errors: Okkodo 7, Tiyan 3. Service errors: Okkodo 4, Tiyan 4.

3rd SET

With their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs laid everything on the line. Neither team was able to get a grip on the lead early on as the largest lead was two.

Tiyan actually grabbed a 17-13 lead on a big Malana block, but Okkodo made its move as David and Yerten found some open spots in the Titans defense pull away from an 18-18 tie. Yerten’s hit placement was on point as the Bulldogs pulled off the third set 25-21 that sent the Okkodo crown into a frenzy.

Aces: Okkodo 2 (Mupas, Hudtohan); Tiyan 1 (Aguigui). Blocks: Okkodo 1 (Yerten), Tiyan 2 (Cruz, Malana). Kills: Okkodo 12 (Yerten 3, David 3, Hudtohan 3, Balbin 2, Carino); Tiyan 12 (No. Ericsson 4, Malana 3, Blas 2, Cruz , Na. Ericsson, Aguon). Unforced errors: Okkodo 6, Tiyan 7. Service errors: Okkodo 0, Tiyan 3.

4th SET

Errors were abundant in the early going as the first four Tiyan points came off Okkodo unforced errors, while four of the first five Bulldogs points came on Titans service errors.

Tiyan went on an 8-2 run midway through that made all the difference. When Malana delivered two straight aces, the writing was on the wall as the Tiyan crowd started chanting, ‘MVP!’

Okkodo was unable to climb out of the hole as Malana capped off the game with his final kill of his high school career 25-16.

Aces: Okkodo 2 (Mupas, Silvestre); Tiyan 2 (Malana 2). Blocks: Okkodo 1 (Balbin), Tiyan 2 (Cruz, Buekis). Kills: Okkodo 7 (David 3, Balbin 2, Hudtohan 1); Tiyan 11 (Malana 5, Na. Ericsson 2, No. Ericsson 2, Blas, Cruz). Unforced errors: Okkodo 9, Tiyan 2. Service errors: Okkodo 1, Tiyan 4.

Based on the game stats, the team that made the least unforced errors in each set won that set.

“To get a three-peat is a blessing,” Tiyan head coach Rod Pama said. “These boys worked extremely hard. Gerald, Tyrone and Noel coming back from the championship teams: these boys were tremendous leaders. They really laid the groundwork for our successful season.”

3rd place game

The GW Geckos beat out the JFK Islanders 14-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-21 for third place.

CHAMPION V CHAMPION

The Titans will host either the Harvest Eagles or FD Friars on Saturday, May 20 at the Tiyan Gym at 7 pm. The game will be broadcast live on www.guamsportsnetwork.com.

“Whoever we meet, either Harvest or FD, it will be a good game. We weren’t able to see FD in the preseason, so we’ll see how it goes,” Pama added.

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COMING SOON …

10th Micronesian Games from Marjuro June 15-24

Guam National Bodybuilding Championship June 29

QUICK HITS

Coach Donan Cruz and the U.S. Men’s U21 National Team took home gold at the 2024 NORCECA Continental Championship with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 27-25) win over Canada on Sunday evening in Nogales, Mexico. The victory guaranteed the U.S. a spot in the 2025 FIVB U21 World Championship.
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Congratulations to the 2024 Guam Rugby Cup Champions: Tao Tao Mana (Men’s Cup Champions) and Southern Rugby Club (Women’s Cup Champions)

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