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.