ERIN WONG: A QUEEN ON TWO COURTS

By Robert Balajadia

The crown that comes with being a two-time IIAAG volleyball champion is already an accomplishment that not many athletes can achieve. For the likes of Erin Wong, the sport had brought out the best in her and being a two-time champion Academy Cougar was more than enough for her but she still wanted to challenge herself.

Erin Wong during her senior year with the Academy Cougars where they went on to win the 2013 volleyball title. (GSPN file photo)
Erin Wong during her senior year with the Academy Cougars where they went on to win the 2013 volleyball title. (GSPN file photo)

A year after high school, Wong challenged herself to step into a different kind of spotlight, taking center stage in the 2014 Ms. Earth Guam pageant competition.

Not only did she compete, she won! The dedication to the sport of volleyball had only benefited her to pageant competition standards, and the discipline paid off.

“I did the pageant because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, which was sports. I had no idea that I would win. The pageant opened doors and gave me new experiences that I’m really grateful for,” said Wong on deciding to compete for Ms. Guam Earth.

The title of Ms. Guam Earth can serve as a title for carrying all of Guam’s on your eco-friendly responsibilities on your shoulders, but Wong has since embraced it and is enjoying the ride.

Although, most important thing that the pageant taught her was how much she actually loved playing sports and the camaraderie that comes along with it.

“As time went on, the pageant made me realize what I really enjoy doing, and that’s playing sports. I realized how much I missed the court, how much I missed the sweating and being a part of something that didn’t just depend on me,” admitted Wong.

So now, Wong has decided to take her talents to the 2015 Women’s National Volleyball Team that will be competing in the Pacific Games this summer. She is reunited with a bunch of her Academy Cougar champion teammates, namely setter Leah Castro.

Castro spoke of her on-court chemistry with Wong and how that’s only going to benefit the young squad earlier in a preview of the 2015 team who will compete in Papua New Guinea

Nerves On Two Fronts

The likes of competing for Ms. Guam Earth is an obvious pressure situation since the spotlight won’t miss anything you do. Though being on a team of six in volleyball, the spotlight won’t be as bright which could make competing for Guam this summer less of a nervous situation. Neither of the two are easy, but Wong admitted that being center stage in an unfamiliar setting was harder to psych herself up for.

“The pageant was nerve wrecking for me because it was just me and I couldn’t rely on any teammates. Being on stage when all eyes were on me was just scary!”

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In Papua New Guinea, Wong will have a support system on-court which can only translate well for the psyche of the National Team newcomer.

“It’s going to help having my teammates out there with me which eases my anxiety a lot,” said Wong on the pressure of her first Pacific Games. “I may have won some championships in high school, but this is a whole other level of play and I’m stoked to be a part of the team.”


BFF Bonto

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Wong’s best friend Alina Bonto will be out doing her own thing as a member of the Women’s National Basketball Team. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Wong’s teammates are going to have her back through out the course of the games, but one of her bigger supporting cast members will be busy also trying to win gold as a member of the Women’s National Basketball team in Alina Bonto.

Bonto and Wong have been friends since middle school and they have helped bring two volleyball titles and two basketball titles to Academy during their high school tenure.

Now, the two will be competing for medals for Guam in the Pacific Games, Guam’s most sought after medals in all of its yearly competitions aside from the Olympics.

“We’re both just really excited to be a part of the games and represent the island. Personally, I’m super stoked to share this experience with her. I’m glad we’re both going because it’s more time I get to spend with her since she’s back home for the summer from attending college in Cali,” said Wong.

Bonto is on a basketball scholarship attending Whittier College and is back just in time for the games. She too is ecstatic about the opportunity to see one her long time friends shine in a sport she has proven herself in.

“We both have a lot of pride for our island and It’s awesome knowing that one of my closest friends will be representing Guam right along side me. I’ll definitely be out there supporting her games and I know she’ll be doing the same for me,” said Bonto on her buddy Erin.

Simply Erin

The balancing act of being Ms. Guam Earth and national team volleyball player may not leave a lot of room for other personalities, but don’t think you’ve figured out who Erin Wong is just yet.

“Ever since I won the ‘Ms. Guam Earth’ title people always acknowledge me by it, which I don’t always like because it doesn’t entirely define who I am. I’m more than pageant and sports. I like simple, I’m a typical island girl who loves the sun and reading on the beach,” admitted Wong.

Wong’s off-court ambition is just as high as she is currently in schooling to pursue a degree in Special Education.

“I can’t wait to be a teacher. I know it’s not the easiest job but I feel like it’s the most rewarding,” she added.

Wong has proven herself on the volleyball court and will be an asset for Guam volleyball in years to come. (GSPN file photo)
Wong has proven herself on the volleyball court and will be an asset for Guam volleyball in years to come. (GSPN file photo)

Spiritually, Wong is also at peace with herself and her faith.

“I try to put God before the pageant and sports, that’s just the way I was raised and it’s given me so many fruits in my life. My brother is one of them, he gave up his senior year of basketball to be in the seminar which was a huge sign for me since I though he was crazy for doing so. It made me realize that these things pass, God doesn’t.”

Erin’s brother Ashton Wong made this decision in 2010, giving up his spot as the FD Friars starting center to commit to a life of religious dedication.

It wasn’t easy for the little sister growing up in the shadow of one of Guam’s basketball giants, knowing that she was going to be compared to him and his accomplishments.

“I wanted to be like him. My brother is the one who got me into sports. It was a struggle most times because I was being compared to him and he was the standard my coaches expected me to reach. It really taught me to put my team ahead of everything,” said Erin.

Here To Stay

Though the veterans of Guam women’s volleyball opted to sit the Pacific Games out, Erin has assured that her stint in 2015 is a long-term relationship and she plans to be a part of Guam’s teams whether it be volleyball, basketball, or beach volleyball.

“I’m always open to try new things. The team we have now may be young but there is going to be a big chance to gain experience whether we win or lose. I think it’s better that we’re young because it’ll help shape us and prepare us better for future situations,” added Wong.

Wong will be playing hard this summer to add another crown to her growing collection, setting new heights for the young 19-year-old. She’s already doing a lot more than most her age and she’s got a lot of time to decide her future. Her immediate goals are achievable and her long term goals are what she works towards everyday.

Whether it be a volleyball court, a pageant spotlight, or even a classroom, don’t only expect Erin Wong to succeed, expect her to excel.

COUGARS CLINCH SHIEH TITLE

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By Niko Bulaon

Academy Cougars’ Meagan Maratita and Isabel Flores team up to make the save and send the ball over to the Sanchez Sharks. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars’ Meagan Maratita and Isabel Flores team up to make the save and send the ball over to the Sanchez Sharks. (photo by Jesse Castro)

How do you start the upcoming season right? As the 2013 Shieh Tournament champions.

After three days of games at John F. Kennedy among ten schools, it all came down to one with the Academy Cougars defeating the Sanchez Sharks in three exciting sets, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18.

From the start of the first set, the Sharks came out firing, taking an early 8-1 lead behind Shaniah Aguon and Kristin Artero. The Cougars struggled to get back from miscommunications and multiple errors. It wasn’t long until Cougars Cydni Scott stepped up to get her team going with a tip, frazzling their opponents. Artero fought back with multiple kills, keeping her team slightly ahead of the Cougars, 18-16. As the Sharks seemed to be taking the first set, Scott and teammate Celeste Guarin took the matter into their own hands, ending the first set with two aces from Guarin.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Cougars Erin Wong about the upcoming season. “But I think my team is capable of getting to the finish like we did today.”

With a first set win, the Cougars came back on the court to take the game, but the Sharks had other plans. With two kills from Artero and an ace from teammate Akiko Naval, the Sharks took another early lead of 2-7. Multiple errors from both teams caused the lead to be cut short to two; a kill from Wong tied the game to 9-9. As the Cougars and Sharks fought for the lead, Aguon and Scott kept their teams on their feet and in the game.

McDonald’s Player of the Game Academy Cougars’ Erin Wong. (photo by Jesse Castro)
McDonald’s Player of the Game Academy Cougars Erin Wong (photo by Jesse Castro)

Sharks Kiara Rojas stepped up to give her team a running lead, 22-16, but Wong’s block and kill kept the Sharks at bay. It wasn’t long before the combination of Artero and Rojas got their team the second set win, forcing a third set to be played.

The third started in a different manner; the Cougars took a quick lead of 5-0 behind Wong before the Sharks found their rhythm again. The Cougars soon took advantage of the Sharks’ errors; a mistake by the Sharks got their opponents up by four. But the Sharks didn’t give up easily, sending any ace and kill they could. Unforced errors brought the score to 23-17. A huge block from Scott and an electrifying kill from teammate Ladera Linn ended the game with the Cougars taking the 14th Annual Shieh title.

“Prepare mentally,” replied Wong about preparing for this tournament. “To keep our composure and to play like we do in practice. Our main goal was to see where we were and to see who we were up against and improve from there for the regular season.”

Wong led her team with six kills and four blocks with the help of teammate Scott with two kills and four blocks. In the losing effort, Artero led the Sharks with seven kills.

 

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

http://www.akguam.com/ou/tamuning-scion/

Academy Cougars celebrate their three set victory against the Sanchez Sharks. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars celebrate their three set victory against the Sanchez Sharks. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kristin Artero got the ball past Academy Cougars’ Cyndi Scott for the side out. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kristin Artero got the ball past Academy Cougars’ Cyndi Scott for the side out. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kiara Rojas spiked the ball to the Academy Cougars side. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kiara Rojas spiked the ball to the Academy Cougars side. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars’ Erin Wong defended the net against a sneak play while Sanchez Sharks setter Chanel Catunao sets the ball up for a spike. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars’ Erin Wong defended the net against a sneak play while Sanchez Sharks setter Chanel Catunao sets the ball up for a spike. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars’ Erin Wong spiked the ball over the net with Sanchez Sharks’ Kiara Rojas ready to make the block. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Academy Cougars’ Erin Wong spiked the ball over the net with Sanchez Sharks’ Kiara Rojas ready to make the block. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kristin Artero spikes the ball over with Academy Cougars’ Cyndi Scott prepared to block the incoming ball. (photo by Jesse Castro)
Sanchez Sharks’ Kristin Artero spikes the ball over with Academy Cougars’ Cyndi Scott prepared to block the incoming ball. (photo by Jesse Castro)

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