After losing their girls volleyball opener against Simon Sanchez last week, the George Washington High School Geckos regrouped, turning around Monday to dismantle the Okkodo High School Bulldogs in straight sets (25-20, 25-14, 25-14) at the Dededo campus.
And, while it’s still early in the season, the victory was welcomed by the defending champions, who aren't used to losing.
“We were pretty down after that first game; there was some beef on the court,” said sophomore Kierra Diego after Monday’s Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association matchup. “But, we talked to each other as a team and fixed it. … Communication is key if we want to repeat as champions.”
Diego, the self-proclaimed hype person of the team, said she was proud of the way her team performed against Okkodo – a glimpse of what they’re capable of as the season progresses.
“We made mistakes,” she said of the game against the Bulldogs. “But, we have to keep coming back. We can’t get down on ourselves or stop talking … If it’s too quiet, there’s no motivation or energy and we aren't going to win the game. We need to keep talking to each to overcome our mistakes.”
The George Washington Geckos, last season’s GDOE champs, are fielding their smallest team ever – a sign of the havoc the pandemic has wrought on student activities.
While only nine strong, the Geckos are young – five sophomores – and eager to prove they belong on the court and can keep the title in purple and gold territory.
While it's still early in the season, the sophomore Diego said she wants to keep the trophy at GW and is trusting in her team to put in the work.
“Four-peat! … That’s what we want,” she said, adding her teammates are focused on the same goal and eager to put in the work to get it done. But, she said, the focus is to learn and get better every game – an emphasis on playing every game to the potential they’re capable of.
“We’re going to work hard. … We created that bond,” she said.
The Geckos got off to a slow start in the first set, with Okkodo jumping out to a lead. However, GW regrouped behind the setting of Joie Almoguera and the net play of Bonita Castro to take the 25-20 set.
The early part of the second set was a culmination of errors on both sides of the net with the Bulldogs struggling to serve and the Geckos hitting miscues – it was anyone’s set. The first 12 points - with the exception of a block at the net by Okkodo’s Jessrian Nededog - were due to errors on both sides.
Down 7-5, the Bulldogs gifted the Geckos’ Kamerin Guerrero an overpass. Guerrero took advantage, slicing the ball straight into the heart of Okkodo’s defense. Then GW’s Kristine Bansil caught the Okkodo defense sleeping, dropping the ball into a pocket for the 9-5 score.
Down by four, the Bulldogs woke up and the two teams’ hitters came to life, forcing their opponent’s respective defenses to step up play, much to the crowd’s enjoyment.
Okkodo’s Jourdan Siguenza and Sharma Taiuwei powered much of the Bulldog offense. Taiuwei rattled off back-to-back kills to get within 5 at 16-11.
However, an Okkodo service error negated the rally and GW’s Diego slipped one into the back corner for the 18-11 score.
Despite the lopsided score, the rallies got more intense with both teams scrambling for the edge. However, Okkodo got as close as 22-14 with a Taiuwei tip before Diego served the next three points, including an ace to shut down the set at 25-14.
In the final stanza, the two teams battled back and forth for the first 12 points, but service and hitting errors plagued much of the early part of the set.
With the score at 7-5 in GW’s favor, Castro cranked up the heat, serving four straight aces to give her team the 11-5 lead. Okkodo regrouped, pulling within three. The rallies were long, highlighted by the stellar defensive efforts of both teams.
With both teams hustling, Okkodo’s Kalei McCormick punched a kill straight into Gecko territory for the 14-11 game. Okkodo steadily closed in, trading points to get within one at 15-14.
But, a Castro tip handed the ball back to the Geckos, and Almoguera closed out the set, serving the next 10 points, including three aces, to close out the game.
With the score at 24-14 and GW’s bench and crowd calling for a jump serve, Almoguera delivered, slicing a ball into Okkodo territory for the game point.