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Sunday, May 26, 2024

HD Spikers rally past Crossovers, claim bronze

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Cignal gutted its way back from an early setback with a sweep of the last three sets as the HD Spikers pounded out an 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, 26-24 victory over the Chery Tiggo Crossovers to nail the bronze medal in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.

Vanie Gandler rammed in a through-the-block hit in between two defenders to put Cignal at match point for the second time, 25-24, then Eya Laure’s set-tying backrow attack proved wide as the HD Spikers whooped it up to celebrate their second straight – and fourth overall – third place finish in the league organized by Sports Vision.

But the celebration was briefly interrupted when Chery Tiggo deputy coach Kungfu Reyes challenged a foot fault in the last play. However, officials ruled that Chery Tiggo did not officially contest the call, allowing Cignal to secure the victory in two hours and 12 minutes.

“It feels great. I know how hard it was, how much we sacrificed,” said Gandler, who produced a 22-attack effort, including a blast that lifted the team to a 24-22 lead.

But Eya Laure and Pauline Gaston came through with back-to-back hits to extend the match before the former Ateneo standout and Cignal top rookie shattered the Crossovers’ net defense with a power hit after a brief but intense exchange of shots.

Cignal, which missed a first crack at the finals with a sudden death loss to Choco Mucho, also toppled Chery Tiggo, 25-19, 21-25, 25-15, 25-20, last Thursday, thus sweeping their best-of-three series.

Chery Tiggo, which beat Creamline to rule the league’s inaugural pro staging in 2021 in bubble setup in Ilocos Norte, also matched its fourth place effort in the Reinforced Conference last year.

“Number one, thank you kay Lord, naka-survive kami. Yeah, na-get namin yung bronze medal and hopefully, mas kuminang ‘to sa mga susunod na conferences,” said Cignal head coach Shaq delos Santos.

Ces Molina and Jovelyn Gonzaga backed Gandler with 14 and 12 points, respectively, with Gonzaga also shining in defense with 11 excellent digs and seven receptions. Roselyn Doria and Angela Nunag contributed eight and six points, respectively, while Chin Basas finished with five markers.

“I’m just very, very, very happy because I know how tired we are. I really felt the fight from each player, each coach, up to the management. So I’m very thankful,” added Gandler.

Skipper Molina also credited her teammates for rising to the occasion throughout their campaign, saying: “Very happy din ako dahil talagang naging personal growth ‘to ng bawat team. Yung mga teammates ko talagang nag-step up talaga sila. Kahit sinong ipasok samin nakikita niyo naman na nagcocontribute talaga.”

“Alam ko masayang-masaya rin yung bawat isa sa team and hopefully sa mga susunod na conference, mas maging maganda yung laban naming,” added Molina.

Eya Laure fired 17 points and Mylene Paat scored 16 as the Crossovers’ made a strong start in a bid to send the series to a third game. But they failed to halt the HD Spikers’ strong comeback and fell short of their late rally in the fourth.

Ces Robles broke a long slump, scoring 13 points, while Gaston made 11 points and Cza Carandang and EJ Laure combined for 15 markers.

So tight was the match that Chery Tiggo ended up on top in spiking duel, 64-63, and service, 4-1. Both teams finished with eight blocks but the HD Spikers capitalized on their rivals’ unforced errors, netting 22 points while yielding 16 of their own.

Cignal, which also finished third in the Invitational ruled by Kurashiki of Japan last July, stumbled early, yielding the first set by a huge margin. Undeterred, the HD Spikers rallied back, winning the next three sets, including a nail-biting decision in the last with Gandler’s standout performance playing a big role in their victory.

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