A team of 12 pickleball players from Guam traveled to Saipan this past weekend for the inaugural Marianas Cup Pickleball Tournament hosted by the Pickleball Federation of the Northern Mariana Islands at the American Memorial Park tennis courts in Garapan on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The 12 members of the Pickleball Guam Association have been practicing for the past three months leading up to the tournament. Despite the rain delay on the evening of the tournament, many supporters and spectators from Saipan came to watch the games.
The tournament started with women’s doubles, followed by men’s doubles, then, mixed doubles. Each match had two games each, with the best two-out-of-three games to 11 points and win by 2 points.
“The competition is steep and the Saipan players are very talented,” said Wiliam Josler, a member of PGA.
Despite their best efforts, members from PGA were unable to secure the trophy, and members from NMI defeated Guam 11-1 after 12 matches, with Guam only winning six games out of 29 games played.
“The tournament was so much fun,” said 15-year-old Ayana Nakagawa. “I think we definitely could have won a few more of the games, but all of the games were good matchups and really great competition. It was fun being able to play with new players because playing on Guam, you only get to play with the same people. So, it’s nice seeing other people’s skills and how they hit.”
Many of the Guam players have been to Saipan playing in recent games over the past several months, so many players were already well acquainted with one another.
Although Saipan defeated Guam decidedly, a member of the Saipan squad praised the Guam team for their skill and competitiveness.
“They were such solid players,” said a member of the Saipan team. “We knew the 12 players were going to be tough, and they were just really, really good. Somehow, I think maybe we won because the venue is ours and we have home court. The crowd was great, the parking lot was full, and the crowd cheered loud during all the games.”
PGA president, Madeline “Ronni” Connelly attended the tournament as a coach and spectator.
“I was so proud watching everyone play during the tournament,” she said. “The matches were very competitive and everyone played with their heart and soul and it really showed how committed the Guam team was. Everyone supported one another and truly demonstrated sportsmanship and fair play. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Nelson Krum, the president of the Pickleball Federation Northern Mariana Islands, enjoyed Guam’s participation and winning the trophy.
“Saipan gets to keep the cup until next year,” he said. “It was great competition and a lot of fun with the people from Guam and we just came out on top this time.”
Noncommissioned U.S. Air Force officer Aubree Owens contributed to this article.