DEFENDING champion Emilio Aguinaldo College and Perpetual Help collide one last time today for the men’s volleyball title in the 91st NCAA volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Drawing strength from their solid blocking and superb court coverage, the Altas pulled the rug from under the fancied Generals, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-19, in Friday’s Game 2 to level their series at one game apiece and send it to a deciding Game 3 slated at 2 p.m.
Diminutive but big-hearted Rey Taneo, Jr. is expected to spearhead the Altas’ attack anew after he uncorked a team-best 16 hits, including 13 on kills while six-footer Ranidean Philipe Abcede will be the focal point in defense after he accounted for four of his team’s 11 blocks.
“Everything will rely on how our defense holds. If we can play like the way we did in Game 2, we’ll have a chance,” said Perpetual Hep coach Sammy Acaylar, who has won 10 men’s, eight juniors’ and three women’s crowns since he started coaching for the Las Pinas-based school three decades ago.
Perpetual Help’s defense held down reigning league MVP Howard Mojica to just 22 points.
The power-hitting Mojica actually scored 22 in Game 1 in powering the Generals to a 22-25, 25-14, 14-25, 16-25.
But unlike in the series opener, the Altas found a way to silence the rest of the EAC players outside Mojica.
In women’s play, St. Benilde goes for the jugular, while San Sebastian fights for dear life as the two face off at 4 p.m.
The Lady Blazers downed the Lady Stags, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-16 , to move a win away from clinching their first title since joining the league more than a decade ago.
It was St. Benilde’s fourth straight victory after the elimination round.
It came at the expense of Perpetual Help, last year’s title-holder Arellano University in the stepladder semis and the two others over San Sebastian.
“This is our chance to win a championship so we might as well go for it,” said St. Benilde mentor Michael Carino.
Gretchel Soltones, the women’s MVP, unleashed a game-best 27 points, but didn’t get ample support from her teammates for the second game in a row now.
“We need to play as a team,” said San Sebastian coach Roger Gorayeb, who steered his team to an elimination round sweep before dropping two straight to St. Benilde.