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CNMI spikers capable of pulling off upsets

posted Jul 3, 2013, 8:48 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 3, 2013, 8:49 PM ]
Reprinted here from the Saipan Tribune

The CNMI’s Clay McCullough-Stearns and John Nekaifes are capable of pulling off upsets when the beach volleyball competition in the 27th Summer Universiade begins this weekend in Russia.

“They will be playing against some big teams, but they can surprise them,” said coach Russ Quinn, who left Saipan for Kazan, Russia with McCullough-Stearns and John Nekaifes early this morning.
McCullough-Stearns and Nekaifes will be facing players in the collegiate ranks and a few who have been participating in AVP Pro Tour and Quinn is hoping that 10 months of intense training will be enough to help the CNMI spikers stand the pressure in the University Games.

“Since we started specifically training for the University games over 10 months ago, both John and Clay’s games have significantly improved. Their individual skill level have improved, with all fundamental areas seeing increased development. Their court presence has improved. as they are anticipating shots before they happen, their communication is good, and they both cover the court with good speed,” Quinn said in an email to Saipan Tribune yesterday morning.

“Both Clay and John have put in many hours of work to prepare themselves. They’ve received some of the best coaching available from FIVB, Japan national team coaches, and local coaches,” the coach added.

While training McCullough-Stearns and Nekaifes, Quinn saw players with different styles of plays, but still they complement each other’s game.

“Clay is a quick study. He picks things up quickly and applies them in games situations. He has a strong presence at the net, with a good block. He also has a good jump serve,” Quinn said.

“John is the speedy defender. He has great anticipation and can touch almost any ball hit on the court. He has a calming demeanor and keeps his focus even when things aren’t going well,” he added.

The two CNMI bets will start their campaign in the University Games via pool play, beginning on July 6 at the Kazanka Beach Volleyball Centre in Kazanka River Embankment. Pool play schedule is unavailable at press time, but there will be four groups composed of teams from Australia, Russia, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, China, Oman, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

Regardless of which team the Commonwealth spikers meet in pool play, Quinn encourages them to enjoy every match and represent their island well.

“I want them to enjoy the experience. Have fun. Forget about the last point. They can’t do anything about it, so move on. Communication is key. There are only two of them on the court, so they need to talk constantly and loudly. They need to encourage each other and pick each other up,” Quinn said.

Quinn also hopes that McCullough-Stearns and Nekaifes’ participation in the University Games will open more opportunities for CNMI youth players.

“I am super excited to see the next generation taking the torch. These players will hopefully set the stage for a new group of up and comers that will allow us to develop and compete in more international tournaments,” Quinn said.