Games tomorrow (Thursday)
2:30 p.m. – VNS vs Navy (best-of-3 for third)
5:30 p.m. – Cignal vs NU-Sta. Elena (best-of-3 for title)
NATIONAL University-Sta. Elena repulsed VNS-One Alicia, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 27-25, on Tuesday to sweep the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference semifinal round, keeping its guns blazing for the confidence and momentum needed for the finals grind at the Paco Arena in Manila.
The Nationals put premium on hitting, net defense, reception and cohesion as they bounced back from a second set struggle then pounced on the Griffins’ erratic finish in the extended fourth set to pound out the victory and prime themselves up for the best-of-three title series tipped to be rough and furious beginning tomorrow.
Nico Almendras and Mike Buddin fired 26 and 13 points, respectively, keeping their competitive fire in preparation against either the Cignal HD Spikers or the Navy Sealions, who were disputing the second championship berth at presstime.
The Nationals rallied from two sets down to stun the HD Spikers then swept the Sealions to clinch the first finals seat. Cignal and Navy, on the other hand, split their first two games in the round robin Final Four to seal a do-or-die match for the other finals slot.
“Credit to my players, they did their best, played within the system,” said Sta. Elena coach Dante Alinsunurin. “They played a little bit relaxed the last time out (against Navy) but at least we still got the win.”
The Griffins, who bowed out of the finals race after dropping their first two matches, actually looked poised to forcing a deciding set against the highly fancied Nationals. But after Sta. Elena survived a match point at 24 and yielded its own on a service miscue, Ben San Andres served into the net then the high-flying, hard-hitting Griffin fumbled in serve receive, enabling the Nationals to escape with the victory in one hour and 43 minutes.
“Hopefully, this win will help us, so that we can keep going in the finals,” said Almendras in Filipino. “This also gave us the momentum, especially for my teammates.”
While matching the Griffins’ assault, blocking and digging, the Nationals likewise came out of the match they could afford to lose free of any health concerns that would hamper or jeopardize their title drive.
Obed Mukaba, a block specialist, went on an attack mode, producing 12 points and adding two aces for a 14-point output while Gerard Diao and Ken Malinis combined for 15 points.
The Griffins matched the Nationals’ 58 attack points and five blocks with Kevin Montemayor finishing with 13 points, San Andres and Michael Doria adding 12 points apiece and Yoyong Mendoza coming through with 11 hits. But they yielded four more aces and five points off their miscues and ended up with a 0-3 slate.