GECKOS ESCAPE FROM ISLANDER UPSET

Post date: Oct 17, 2016 10:10:50 PM

The GW Geckos survived its first three-set victory against a resilient JFK Islanders to remain unbeaten in Tuesday’s IIIAAG Girls’ Volleyball League action.

“These Geckos think they can mess around in someone else’s house,” said GW Head Coach Bobbi Quinata, pulling no punches when talking about her team’s performance. “Make no mistake … These (JFK) girls came to rock the house. They tested us.”

But, Quinata said she was counting on experience, the team’s training and the girls’ willingness to pull out the win regardless of the circumstance.

“I rarely call a timeout … They have to figure it out for themselves,” she said, adding that the team has to learn to pull together in the face of adversity if they want to be successful moving forward.

The defending champs came out firing on all cylinders in the first set, jumping out to a 7-0 start. With ease, the Geckos capitalized on Islander errors and rode their hitters to a 19-10 lead. Rattling the Islander cages, GW’s Niah Siguenza, Callia Concepcion, Jojo Cruz and Samantha Quinata reeled off thundering kills or well-placed tips to keep the Islanders off balance.

Chock full of freshmen on a varsity roster, the Islanders seemed out of their league, forcing a JFK timeout with the home team down by 7.

The strategy worked as JFK’s Kiyoni Yamaguchi and Isabel Itilong-Cruz struck back-to-back points. Freshman libero Maiya Taijeron worked the defensive line to keep the ball alive, bringing the crowd to its feet during the long rallies. A pair of Taijeron aces finally gave the home team the hard-fought 24-22 edge.

Hitting errors plagued both sides, knotting the game up at 25 apiece. With the home crowd on its feet pushing for the upset, Itilong-Cruz delivered back-to-back kills that sailed just over the purple wall for the 27-25 win.

With the jitters firmly put away for the night, JFK freshman Frencine Villena opened the second set on a kill, delivered right into the heart of the GW defense. Villena didn’t stop there, racking up three more kills and riding a few Gecko errors to take the 7-3 lead.

GW’s Cruz stifled the rally with a sweet hit down the line. Steadily, GW chipped into the lead. A Samyra Duenas tip that caught the Islander defense sleeping and an ace tied the game up at 10.

Long rallies, tight defense and thunderous cheers rocked the JFK gym as both teams delivered their A game to knot the game up two more times. Down three, JFK’s Kiana Rivera worked the front line, delivering a block that brought the crowd to its feet. But, the Geckos’ Quinata ensured it was just one point as she smothered the next hit, quieting the home crowd and riling up the Purple-and-Gold faithful.

Up three, GW’s Quinata sliced an ace through the JFK defense to extend the lead. While JFK tried to inch back in, GW ensured the win, riding a JFK miscue and a bad set for the 25-22 win.

The third set saw a more composed GW team. The defending champs returned to what works for them, relying on their experience and veterans to take a 15-7 lead. Picking and choosing their hits, the Geckos kept the Islanders off balance and unable to find an offensive rhythm.

With Quinata and Siguenza trolling the net and the GW defense picking up anything that slipped past, the Geckos ensured there were no mistakes, closing the door on any hopes for a comeback to take home the 25-17 set.

Concepcion led the Geckos with 9 kills, while Cruz chipped in three kills and four aces. Siguenza and Quinata tag-teamed for 7 kills, four blocks and an ace in the win.

Itilong-Cruz led JFK with 7 kills and an ace, while Villena added 7 kills in the loss.

Serving errors hurt both teams with GW racking up 11 errors at the line and JFK finishing the night with six.

While the win was a good one, Concepcion said her team needs to work on its communication and positive energy moving forward, because they want another trip to the championship.

The struggle against JFK was a good one, she said, adding that it’s sometimes what is needed to bring her team together and help raise each other to the next level.

Other Scores

In other games, Southern High School handed the Notre Dame Royals its first loss 25-18, 15-25, 25-23. Down 23-18, the Dolphins’ Jaden Perez served seven straight points to close out the game .

St. Paul defeated Okkodo High School 25-20, 25-18.