2:30 p.m. – VNS vs Sta. Elena
5:30 p.m. – Cignal vs Navy
National U-Sta. Elena’s superb blend of hitting and blocking proved too much for PGJC-Navy to overcome as the Nationals hammered out a 25-21, 25-17, 26-24 victory over the Sealions to close in on the finals of the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference at the Paco Arena in Manila yesterday.
The young but tall and talented Nationals outdueled the Sealions in a tense first-set skirmish, dominated the second then bounced back from early three-point deficits in the third before withstanding the Sealions’ own stretch-run rally to complete the straight-set victory after rallying from two sets down to stun the Cignal HD Spikers at the start of the round robin semis last Thursday.
Wresting the solo lead at 2-0, Sta. Elena assured itself of at least a tie for the second finals berth but following the Nationals’ contrasting victories over the HD Spikers and the Sealions, the VNS-One Alicia Griffins will need to outdo themselves to stop them from sweeping the Final Four phase on Tuesday.
The loss dropped Navy to 1-1 with Cignal and VNS-One Alicia trying to match that card and stay in the finals hunt at presstime. The loser, however, will bow out of the finals race.
“Credit to the boys, they really wanted to win. But it’s all hard work,” said Sta. Elena coach Dante Alinsunurin.
The Sealions matched the Nationals’ 40 attack points but the latter put their main weapon on display again, coming through with 12 kill blocks, nine more than their seasoned rivals.
Five of those they produced in their emphatic second set romp.
But the Sealions started strong in the third, staying 3-up at 9-6 before the Nationals charged back, seized control on an 11-5 run for a 17-14 lead and pulled away at 20-16 on a Navy hitting error.
Navy, however, mounted its own rally, winning five of the next six points to force a tie at 21. The Sealions survived the first match point on an Obed Mukaba service error but the Nationals regained the lead on a disputed Navy mishit before Nico Almendras finished them off with a clear hit that the latter had failed to defend.
Almendras topscored again with 16 points while block specialist Mukaba switched on on attack mode and fired eight attack points for a 14-point output. But it was playmaker Josh Retanar, who took the game’s best player honors with 21 excellent sets he spiked with three attack points and the same number of blocks.
Joeven dela Vega stepped up for Navy and delivered 15 points while Jao Umandal finished 10 points and Greg Dolor struggled with a six-point output for the Sealions, who trounced the Griffins in three in the semis opener.