Sta. Elena hammered a four-set shocker over Cignal to draw first blood in their best-of-three semifinals series.
A couple of upsets opened the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference men’s best-of-three semifinals series after the lower seeded teams Philippine Army and Sta. Elena pulled off stunning victories Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Romnick Rico led the No. 4 seed Troopers in their 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-20, win over the top seed Philippine Air Force to move a step closer to clinching a spot in the best-of-three championship.
Rico, a University of Sto. Tomas product, hammered all of his 17 points from attacks while Lemuel Arbasto and Benjaylo Labide scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Army, which avenged its straight sets defeat at the hands of the Jet Spikers in the elimination round.
“Katapat namin ‘yung Air Force at alam naman natin kung paano sila magtrabaho. Lahat nandiyan, malalaki, magaling mag-block, at magaling mag-receive,” said Army head coach Rico de Guzman, whose troop booked the last semis berth by booting out Instituto Estetico Manila in a playoff last Thursday. “Pero nu’ng pinanood namin sila, napansin namin na hindi pa sila gaano nagdyi-jell. Kailangan namin bilisan para samantalahin yun.”
The Troopers’ win snapped Air Force’s four-game winning streak.
No. 3 seed Wrecking Balls, meanwhile, shocked powerhouse Cignal, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22, 30-28, to rebound from its lost against the same rival at the close of the elimination round last Tuesday.
“The moment na natapos ang game namin last time, we evaluated talaga (ang performance ng team). Sabi ko , ‘Hangga’t di ko nakikita kung ano yung kakayahan na meron kami as a team sa training at sa game matatalo talaga tayo. So eventually noong natalo kami sa Cignal, ang dami naming talk talaga,” said Sta. Elena coach Arnold Laniog.
“Noong talo namin noong nakaraan masasabi namin na hindi kami nag-perform. Sabi ko naman na kung matatalo tayo dun naman tayo sa stage na talagang kinapos lang,” he added. “Sa areas naman sa training sabi ko, “Tatalunin natin ang Cignal.’ Kasi doon sa last game namin sa na-evaluate namin may mga run kami na talagang nahirapan din ang Cignal. Which is kapag kumarga ang service namin nai-stop namin ang highball hitters nila. Kanina simula first set hanggang fourth set yun talaga ang naging key points namin: ang service and ang block.”
Edward Camposano scored 22 points for Sta. Elena. His last two markers came off a tying off the block kill followed by a well-timed kill block against Cignal skipper Ysay Marasigan that pushed the Wrecking Balls at match point advantage, 29-28.
Ace Mandani connected with a service ace, Sta. Elena’s 11th of the game, to seal the duel.
Berlin Paglinawan scored 13, Kurl Rosete had 12 while Mandani finished with nine for the Wrecking Balls.
Sta. Elena and Army will try to close the series on Tuesday. Game 3, if necessary, is on Thursday.
Fauzi Ismail registered with 18 points while Jeffrey Malabanan got 14 for the Jet Spikers. Mark Alfafara and Marasigan led the HD Spikers with 17 and 15 markers, respectively.
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