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NMI sweeps Guam in Marianas Football Cup

The NMI U23 men’s and women’s national teams completed a sweep of Guam’s U23 men’s and women’s teams in the first Marianas Football Club matchup since 2019.

Four games last Thursday and Saturday welcomed a lively and jam-packed crowd at the Northern Marianas Soccer Training Center in Koblerville as a live band kept pace with the action on the field.

The Cup was even more meaningful and historic as for the first time, the NMI men’s team has won the Cup since its inception in 2007. It was also the first time NMI hosted the Cup since 2018.

The NMI men first fell to Guam, 0-1 on Thursday, but came back to win, 3-0, on Saturday and won the championship via the goal aggregate rule in which they get the combined number of goals scored by two teams over two or more games.

In the first game, Guam’s Julian Harmon Curtis found his way into NMI territory and scored in the 25th minute for a 1-0 game. Half time came and went, and the NMI squad tried their best to snag a goal of their own, but Guam’s defenses did not let up and claimed the first game.

The NMI, upon knowing Guam’s gameplay by the second game, regrouped and wasted no time to score a goal.

Sunjoon Tenorio found an opening past Guam goalkeeper Saena San Nicolas in the 28th minute for a 1-0 lead. The first half ended without any more trouble and Guam still remained scoreless, but NMI had other plans for the second half.

Markus Attao-Toves scored on an assist from Tenorio for the second goal in the 63rd minute, then as a substitute, Tanapon Unsa scored a freekick in extra time to seal the win, 3-0.

For NMI women, they blew the Guam team out of the water, 5-1, in their first game on Thursday. Guam tried to come back with a vengeance on Saturday for a harder matchup, but the NMI team managed still to blank them, 2-0.

In Saturday's game, the first half was a tough defensive game on both ends as it became a race to strike first, but to no avail.

But a few minutes before half time, NMI found an opening as they pressured Guam’s defense when Andrei Kaithlyn Chavez made a great pass to Jerlyn Castillo, who then passed to Jannah Casarino, and with a great feed to an open Summer Manahane, made the kick past just one Guam defender and through to the net for the first goal of the game in the 36th minute.

In the second half, Guam tried to bounce back as they constantly made a push toward NMI’s goal. They finally made a break for it around 50 minutes into the game but NMI’s goalkeeper Deseha Mendiola made a great save amidst the attack.

Later, Chavez had possession of the ball and tried to make it in around the 58th minute but just barely missed. NMI still had an offensive advantage and just three minutes later, Manahane attempted another go at the goal but was a tad bit to the left.

NMI’s offense wasn’t done as they had many more chances for them to extend the lead, but Guam positioned themselves better and set out to switch the momentum to their side. Guam almost tied the game up in the 80th minute ,but another spectacular save by Mendiola quickly doused their run at a goal.

With NMI’s extensive push for the goal, they found themselves in Guam’s territory, but it was Guam’s possession.

Guam’s captain Ariya Cruz kicked to pass the ball across the field to Sarah Benavente who fumbled it, then, with the beat of the drums and the cheers of the crowd in the background, Casarino, who was nearby, found the ball, dribbled past Benavente, positioned herself, kicked the ball past three other defenders, and then made it just out of a leaping reach of the goalie, for a 2-0 lead in the 85th minute.

As Guam was thoroughly defended, they did not get another chance at the goal even with six extra minutes from the regular time.

Aside from Tenorio, Unsa, and men’s championship MVP Markus Attao-Toves, the NMI men’s team also included Merrick Attao-Toves, Dev Bachani, Brian Lubao, Jireh Yobech, Kohtaro Goto, Ariel Narvaez Jr., Akira Kadokura, Daniell Pablo, Cody Shimizu, Ronnel Ocanada, Anthony Bergancia, Anthony Austria, Andrew Sablan, Monico Claridades, Zhi Xiang Lin, Leland Deleon Guerrero, and Vicente Reyes. They were coached by Michiteru Mita and their manager was Jershwin Angeles.

The NMI women’s team along with Chavez, Borja, Mendiola, Casarino, and women’s championship MVP Manahane, included Dianne Pablo, Khristelle Itaas, Christina Atalig, Katrina Costales, Jerlyn Castillo, Pia Ngewakl, Mia Abuan, Bernadette Horey, Aubrey Castro, Audrey Castro, Rizza Relucio, Tamia Kileleman-Hix, Sophia Quintos, Stephanie Flores, and Kelsey McClellan.

The Marianas Football Cup 2023 was supported by Crowne Plaza Resort Saipan, USA Fanter, Triple J, IT&E, Quality Distributors, GPPC, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, D&Q, TakeCare Insurance, Island Apparel, and Marianas Visitors Authority.

Published by Saipan Tribune - Aug 7, 2023


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