Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nikki, look out for the b-

Way to preserve the shutout!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Here'a a shot of the game

Ben Wood raises his arms in the foreground while Steve McKagan (#4) pumps his fists after scoring the second goal for the CNMI to tie the game, 2-2. Player-coach Nick Swaim (#2)celebrates with McKagan while Norman Camacho (#13) lets loose his barbaric yawp.

Marianas Cup Results Day Two

The home team suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Guamanian Men's National Soccer Team when the visitors found the back of the net with 30 seconds remaining to take a 3-2 lead in the second overtime period.

More to come...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Marianas Cup Results Day One

CNMI Women 0, Guam Women 0

There were no goals scored through the first 90 minutes so the teams went into two seven and a half minute overtime periods. After another scoreless round of play, both women's teams shared the 2nd Annual Marianas Cup.

Without a doubt, the player of the game for the CNMI women was goalkeeper Rebecca Newman. "The Wall" turned away 17 shots from the Guamanians, but the biggest save came on a 20-yard free kick that came right before the end of the first half.

Simone Nicholle Willter's shot was heading for a sure goal under the crossbar when Newman's outstretched arms deflected the ball away. When the CNMI gained possession the ball, referee Rhonda Bamba gave two solid puffs on her whistle to end the half.

Most of the second half action took place in the CNMI's defensive zone and there were many close calls, but the local women denied Guam time and time again.

Willter was definitely Guam's goto player. Unfortunately for the visiting team, Guam was unable to transform her quickness and powerful shot into a score.

Think U Got Skillz?

Check this out...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Marianas Cup Preview

The CNMI Men's National Team squares off against the Guam National team this Sunday, April 27, at the Oleai Sports Complex. Opening ceremonies start at 2:45pm followed by the 3pm kickoff.

Be there to support your home team!

Soccer and Snow

Number 17 is me. Finally got to play again after moving back to the States in the middle of Winter. This winter seems to not want to end. It was about 40 degrees on this day. Since then, I've been wearing long sweats to play, a hat and gloves. Yesterday, I had to be goalie (everyone takes turns for 1/2 of a game). It hailed. Imagine someone flinging little pebbles at your face from the sky. I'm playing in a 30+ women's league and a 30+ co-ed league. During the co-ed game I met a guy on my team who is friends with someone on Saipan. When I pulled out my red, mud stained socks and pulled them on they disintegrated from rot:)
Miss you all!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Midfielders and Forwards

NMI Learning To Deal With Several Roster Changes

The midfield makeover is perhaps the biggest change for the CNMI men as the Blue Ayuyus made some positional changes and picked up three new players since their 2007 meeting with Guam. Peter Houk served as the home team’s top offensive threat last year, and he’ll maintain his presence at the heart of the CNMI’s attack.

Houk’s footwork will be complimented by returning youngster, Lucas Knecht. The Saipan International School student’s maturity and skill have grown to match his size during the past year, and Knecht looks make the transition to soccer manhood by playing in his second international match.

Knecht has received plenty of pointers along the way from returning starter, Angelo Villagomez. The environmentalist took the field as a striker when the CNMI last played Guam, but Villagomez has transitioned into his new role of midfielder with ease.

Chemistry in the middle of the field is a key component to any team’s success, and the addition of three position players to mix has thus far proved to be a benefit to the CNMI’s central core. Elementary school teacher Peter Loken will play his first international game with the squad, along with fellow rookies, Steve McKagan and Joe Miller.

An accomplished tennis player and part-time actor, Loken has the athletic ability to get the job done, and he garnered the respect of his teammates when he was recently named as the CNMI’s co-captain. McKagan has also proved his value to the squad in his first season of Saipan soccer, as the fisheries biologist added the same experience that helped lead the CNMI All-Stars to a 3-3 tie with Guam last summer.

Miller is one of the youngest players on the team, and the Kagman High School student brings his passion for the game and positive attitude every time he takes the field. Miller has been with the team just under two months after making his debut in the CNMI Men’s League this year.

While the midfielders have plenty of youth, the CNMI forwards have the benefit of years of experience with strikers Chris Guerrero and Choi Yong Woon. For the past seven weeks, Guerrero has spent his days keeping Saipan safe with the Department of Public Safety and his evenings working out with his teammates. After missing out on last year’s home and home series with Guam, he looks to help bring the CNMI its first Marianas Cup victory.

While Guerrero takes care of the ground, Choi spends most of his time minding the skies with Asiana Airlines. Injuries prevented him from joining the squad in 2007, and Choi plans on making the most of his first international competition this Sunday.

The same goes for new forwards Michael Thomas and Brad Ruszala. Both earned spots on the roster last year, but only Thomas found playing time against Guam in both games. After running the flanks in the midfield, Thomas’ offseason training regimen resulted in better ball handling skills and increased endurance.

Ruszala made the move from fullback to midfielder in with the Independents of the Men’s League, and on to striker with the nationals. The former sports reporter turned PTI marketing associate aims at earning his first international cap in front of the home crowd this Sunday.

The 2nd edition of the Marianas Cup gets underway tomorrow afternoon when the women take the field at 3pm with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm. Day Two takes place between the men on Sunday at 3pm with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm, as well. Attendance is free and organizers invite the community to provide the same crowd support that last year’s team enjoyed.

More on the build up to the 2008 Marianas Cup

New defenders looking to protect CNMI Men

With the CNMI Men’s and Women’s National teams are tapering their training routines and the faint sound of Europe’s 1980’s smash hit is in the air as the final countdown to the 2nd Annual Marianas Cup has indeed begun.

With only a couple of days remaining before both squads seek revenge for their 2007 debut losses on Guam’s Harmon Field, the players will have to hope that their weeks spent on the training pitch were well spent.

The CNMI Men will take the field against their regional rivals this Sunday, April 27, looking much different than last year’s squad as the home team will be without 11 of players that filled out its roster in 2007.

One of the biggest changes comes between the pipes as starting keeper Greg Borja and back-up Elias Rangamar suit up for their first contest as CNMI goalkeepers. Borja spends most of his time away from the pitch with his family and defending the rights of the others as an advocate with NMPASI. A sage of sports, Rangamar has been molding athletes on the basketball and volleyball courts, as well as on the track and field for many years as on the CNMI’s highest ranked coaches of any sport.

The duo will lean upon each other this weekend, but they’ll also receive plenty of help from this year’s squad of CNMI fullbacks. Nobody knows what the keepers need more than former CNMI net minder, Ben Wood.

The accomplished artist and teacher from Saipan Southern High School made the move to the back line while playing for the Independents during the Men’s League, and he’s never looked back. Joining him are returning starters, Dale Roberts and team co-captain David Dueñas.

A veteran of many international sporting events, Roberts helps to develop the next generation of scholar-athletes as the vice principal of Garapan Elementary School while Dueñas manages oversees the front office of one of Saipan’s most popular resorts: the Pacific Islands Club.

Another one of the new faces to the CNMI Men is outdoor enthusiast, Dan Westphal. Long known locally as “Barno” because of his talents on the beach volleyball haunts, Westphal brings a “no holds barred” attitude with him to the pitch.

Keeping the unit in check will fall on Dueñas’ shoulders, but player-coach Nick Swaim has spent more than his fair share calling the shots for the CNMI during the build-up to the rematch. When he’s not training the CNMI Men, Women, and U14 teams, the former PIC Clubmate is chasing waves on his surfboard or hiking the many trails Saipan has to offer.

All-around athlete Norman Camacho, is another addition to the 2008 roster who didn’t even tryout for last year’s team. Now the family man and PTI communications specialist serves Team CNMI as a utility player that can play with the defenders, mix it up in the midfielders, or pose a threat up top with the forwards.

The 2nd edition of the Marianas Cup gets underway on Saturday when the women take the field at 3pm with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm. Day Two takes place between the men at 3pm with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm, as well. Attendance is free and organizers invite the community to provide the same crowd support that last year’s team enjoyed.

All About Inter

Inter wins NMIFA men's championship

From Today's Saipan Tribune-

Inter-Godfather's capped their 2008 Men's Winter Football League season with the title in tow after having the most wins in the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association's first league for the year.

Inter-Godfather's won the title after having the most wins.

It came out on top this season with the most wins in the six-team field, compiling a league-best 7-1-1 win-loss-draw record to receive the NMIFA Men's League Cup.

The award ceremony was held last Saturday where other teams and top performers of the past season were also honored as well as the tournament officials.

FC Arirang took runner-up honors with a 6-2-1 slate while Onwel, which also earned the sportsmanship award, placed third after having a 4-3-2 mark.

Onwel took the sportsmanship trophy after being well organized and respected the referees' calls, and were courteous to other players and the fans.

Ol'Aces was awarded the Most Improved Team after showing great improvement in the nine games they played this season.

Joe Miller, who was playing his first season in the men's league, earned the golden boot trophy for scoring nine goals against the other five teams this year.

The league referees were also honored during the ceremony with organizers and players thanking them for their fare officiating. The referees received medals and a special thank you note.

NMIFA Men's Football League director Michael Thomas said they would be holding a tournament in May while the next season opens in July.

Maddie Smith gets her 15 minutes

Smith ready to face the challenge

From today's Marianas Variety-
SAIPAN International School Lady Geckos center female cager, Madison Smith is not only ready but also excited to face the challenge of managing her time and stamina for the two sports she loves.

Smith a key player of Lady Geckos who contributed most to their wins in the Coalition of Private Schools Sports Association Basketball Tournament is among the six picks in the CNMI Women’s National Football Team draft that will compete with the visiting team from Guam in the second Annual Marianas Cup at the Gilbert C. Ada field at 3 p.m., this Saturday.

The 15-year-old cager said she and Zoe Jewell, her team mate in the basketball team accepted the offer when joining the football national team was brought up to them weeks ago.

In an interview following the basketball game where they defeated the Lady Eagles on Tuesday, Smith said she knows she is going to have tough schedule these following days since the NMI women’s football team is eager to take on Guam’s best.

She and five other picks have started practicing with the veterans and she has already figured out the first time she tried, “I can do it.”

Managing her time for studies, for the basketball games which she usually carried along with Melissa Halaby, and now the preparation for football game, Smith could only laugh and say, “It’s crazy,” but she thinks she has enough energy to accomplish all those things.

The other new bloods that will join the national team are Marianas High School’s Elisa Fejeran, Mariana Gramlich, and Rima Halaby, Saipan International School’s Zoe Jewell and Grace Christian Academy’s Ashley Hofschneider.

Just like the basketball, Smith really enjoys playing football as well.

“The older players (in football) are always willing to help and teach us. It makes it easier to learn the game,” she said, adding that she plans to attend the try-out game for the national team again next year.

Fourteen-year-old Jewell is the only student who was also on the women’s team last year.

Women’s Committee Director Francine Sablan said the girls got involved in playing soccer only through participation in the recreational women’s league until the veteran members saw their potential and invited them to attend a try-out for the national team.

Patricia Coleman, a veteran player who feels having these young girls on the team has helped add a new dimension to the team said, “As skilled as [the young girls] are now, if they continue with the team, in just a few years, they will be able to take the team to a higher level.”

Sablan who looks to the young girls for motivation during practice said that during practice, he observed that the energy and youthful enthusiasm of the girls were contagious.

“During a long, hard practice, I see the high school girls working just as hard as I am, but I see them smiling and enjoying themselves. They remind that I’m playing this sport because it’s fun,” she said.

The girls she added showed maturity when it gets down to business on the pitch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NMIFA In The News Again!

AFC team impressed with football development in the Northern Mariana Islands

KUALA LUMPUR: A two-member AFC Vision Asia team recently visited Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, upon the request of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association (NMIFA) to help start the Vision Asia development programme in the commonwealth, which is about 200km north of Guam.

The AFC team held meetings with the Executive Committee of NMIFA to formulate a development strategy to strengthen football on the islands, besides visiting several training facilities in Saipan, an Under-12
football festival, and the training sessions of the Northern Mariana Islands men’s and women’s national teams who are preparing for matches against Guam in the 2008 Mariana Cup.

NMIFA President Jerry Tan was delighted with the visit.

“As a new and developing football association we need benchmarks on how to develop our local football,” said Tan.

“The visit by the Vision Asia team has helped clarify many areas for us. Now the Executive Committee is also fully aware of what needs to be implemented for us to bring our football forward.”

The AFC officials also met the Governor Benigno R. Fitial and discussed football development in the commonwealth.

Since its foundation in 2005, the NMIFA have made many inroads in developing a sport that was virtually non-existent on the baseball centric islands. The NMIFA has organized multiple projects and tournaments for men’s, women’s and youth football as well as coaching and referee seminars.

There are nearly 500 youth aged 4 to 15 currently playing in NMIFA youth leagues, and each of the 15 public schools in Saipan have received a set of goalposts from the football authorities.

With the assistance of Vision Asia, the NMIFA is looking to launch an elite level league competition. There are currently four clubs and the NMIFA has been advised to establish four more so that the elite league can commence.

A schools league is scheduled to kick off in August 2008 and Vision Asia will provide administration, coaching and referee courses for the successful organization of the program.

The Vision Asia team also advised the NMIFA on bringing their statutes in line with international standards and developing their organization structures.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NMIFA In The News

AFC pleased with NMIFA programs

By Jon Perez

Asian Football Conference Vision Asia division development officer Biplav Gautam, left, and AFC development officer Keita Sugihara, third left, join Northern Mariana Islands Football Association officials led by president Jerry Tan, fourth left, for a group photo at the NMIFA office at the TSL building on Saturday. Others in photo are Wes Bogdan, second left, and Vicki Izuka. (Jon Perez) The rapid development of football in the CNMI brought smiles to two Asian Football Confederation officials, which were on island this weekend to assess the programs started by the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association.

AFC development officer Kaita Sugihara and AFC Vision Asia Division development officer Biplav Gautam arrived on Saipan last Thursday and spent Friday and Saturday meeting with NMIFA officials to get an update of its football programs.

Sugihara said he and Gautam even visited the training sessions conducted by the men's and women's national teams in preparation for this weekend's Marianas Cup against Guam.

They also witnessed the Youth Football Festival at San Antonio Elementary School and inspected some of the facilities and venues in football games. Sugihara and Gautam visited the three schools used in football games-Hopwood Junior High School, Saipan Southern High School, and Garapan Elementary School-as well as the Oleai Field inside the Susupe Sports Complex, CPA Field, and the one at American Memorial Park.

“A lot has changed since the first time we came here in October 2006. We can see a lot of positive things in NMIFA's programs. We are very much impressed with the development,” said Sugihara.

Gautam added NMIFA's program is centered on developing the sport at the grassroots level and establishing clubs. “NMIFA is geared towards developing the youth with the establishment of clubs, which is essential part of every football program.”

Sugihara and Gautam said from establishing the youth, men's, and women's programs NMIFA is now geared toward strengthening the club system.

“NMIFA and football on Saipan rapidly change in a short time compared to other countries that are starting with their own program,” Sugihara said.

Gautam added, “They [NMIFA] already have four clubs, which have their own committees and active volunteers. Clubs are important to football development.”

The two also met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and played pickup games with some of the local teams before again meeting with NMIFA officials to further discuss their developmental plans and programs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Support for CNMI MNT

Support for CNMI MNT continues

Ten days remain before the CNMI men’s national soccer challenges its counterpart from Guam in the 2nd Annual Marianas Cup, and this year’s edition of the Blue Ayuyus received some much needed support along the way from one of Korea’s longtime athletic sponsors.

After hearing of the local team’s efforts on the pitch, Sejoong Tour Mall Saipan Branch/Director Manager, Choi Kyung-Sil, decided to assist the players in advance of their game against Guam by outfitting the men with uniforms and shorts.

Choi said that her company regularly supports soccer teams in Korea and that she had been looking for a way to sponsor one of Saipan’s local teams. When she heard about the CNMI’s up and coming national team, she stopped by one of the practices and was surprised with what she saw.

“I saw the CNMI team wearing old dirty shirts and I wanted to help by donating,” she said.

The donation marked Sejoong Tour Mall’s first donation on Saipan, and Choi picked the bright yellow Team Brazil uniforms for the CNMI “to bring sunshine into their game.”

Team CNMI was appreciative of the donation and the players have regularly donned the new uniforms during team practices. Choi said that she was happy to help and that she and Sejoong Tour Mall look forward to supporting more area soccer teams in the future.

“The same team or another team, no problem,” she said.

Last year, football fans from across the world watched as Team CNMI came within one goal of beating the FIFA ranked Guamanians. The visitors escaped with a 3-2 victory at the Oleai Sports Complex, but the men from Saipan were unable to find similar success a week later, as Guam rebounded with a 9-0 victory on its home field to take the inaugural Marianas Cup.

The second edition of the Marianas Cup takes place at the Oleai Sports Complex on Sunday, April 27, at 3pm, with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm. Attendance is free and organizers invite the community to provide the same crowd support that last year’s team enjoyed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Marianas Cup Info

In less than two weeks, the CNMI men’s national soccer team will defend its home pitch in an effort to do what last year’s squad was unable to accomplish by beating Guam on Saipan.

Last year, football fans from across the world watched as the home team came within one goal of beating the FIFA ranked Guamanians, as the visitors escaped with a 3-2 victory at the Oleai Sports Complex. A week later, the men from Saipan were unable to find similar success against their heavily favored opponents abroad, as Guam dismantled the CNMI at home, 9-0, in the rematch.

Aside from pleasing their fan faithful at Harmon Field, the Guamanians also drew first blood in the inaugural Marianas Cup. This month’s match will mark the second time the regional rivals vie for the giant perpetual trophy, and several new faces will don the home team’s uniforms on Sunday, April 27, at the OSC.

Team CNMI will be without 11 of players that filled out its roster in 2007, as Bruce Berline, Vince Stravino, Wesley Bogdan, Mike Hall, Aaron Lewis, Chris Nelson, Mark McDonald, Kyle Cabael, Jonathan Mafnas, Tyce Mister and former captain Yosh Gabaldon have either opted out of the grueling national schedule or will be unavailable for this month’s match.

The CNMI still has a core of players who remember the bitter pill that Guam served up on Harmon Field, as Ben Wood, Dale Roberts, Michael Thomas, Brad Ruszala, Lucas Knecht, David Dueñas, Chris Leon Guerrero, Peter Houk, and Angelo Villagomez return to the Blue Ayuyus with manager John Ravell.

Filling the vacancies left by last year’s history makers was no easy task, but a crowd new faces survived the training and evaluation process, and is now ready to officially don the blue and white for the first time. Among the rookies added to the 2008 line-up are Peter Loken, Steve McKagan, Dan Westphal, Joe Miller, Choi Yong Woon, Norman Camacho, and Nick Swaim.

Change has been the theme to this year’s team, as Team CNMI made changes at the top with the departure of last year’s coach, Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski, who has since moved back to the mainland. His replacement, Jason Higgins, will also miss match, as he and the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association quietly parted ways two months ago.

Since then, Swaim has taken the reigns as player/coach for the local squad, and NMIFA officials regard the former Pacific Islands Club Clubmate as a magnificent find who possesses the talent to direct his teammates both on and off the field.

Adding to his already full plate, Swaim is also coaching the CNMI Women’s National Team as well as the U14 squad. The women will compete against their counterparts from Guam on Saturday, April 26, at the Oleai Sports Complex. As with the men’s contest, the match between the CNMI and Guam will serve as the 2nd Annual Marianas Cup between the women.

Last year, the CNMI women journeyed south to the southernmost link in the Marianas Islands chain as underdogs, and fell to Guam, 7-0. Despite suffering a lopsided defeat on the scoreboard, the injury riddled CNMI Women displayed their character by holding off their opponents for a majority of the first half.

Both matches in the second edition of the Marianas Cup take place at 3pm with pre-game activities getting underway at 2:45pm. Attendance is free and organizers invite the community to provide the same crowd support that last year’s team enjoyed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Be There!

Big Props to Norman Del Rosario for his creative genius! See you at the pitch. By the way, t-shirts will also be available. More on the designs later. Also, be sure to pick up the paper tomorrow to find out more about the matches.