Games Saturday (Iloilo)
4 p.m. – Nxled vs Farm Fresh
6 p.m. – Chery Tiggo vs Choco Mucho
In a duel of hungry teams, Galeries Tower quenched its thirst in style, overcoming a two-set deficit and battling back from four points down in the third to stun Gerflor, 18-25, 24-26, 25-23, 25-18, 15-11, in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig Thursday.
RJ Doromal came away with 15 points to lead the Highrisers’ stirring comeback in a match they treated as a championship showdown. The victory marked a historic feat for Galeries Tower, which secured its very first win after enduring nine consecutive losses in its maiden campaign in the league organized by Sports Vision.
The two-hour, 12-minute win likewise served as an emotional release for the Highrisers, who had faced numerous setbacks, including a number of shutout losses.
“I couldn’t express specifically how we adjusted. But we played with heart and we kept on going. It’s the hunger (to score the first win) that pushed us,” said Doromal.
“We treated this (match) as a championship. We really wanted to end the season on a high note,” added Doromal, who clinched the best player of the game honors with her stellar play.
Earlier, the Highrisers seemed destined for another defeat after going 0-2 down and 15-19 in the third. But they scored the next four points to draw level then out-steadied the Defenders in a tense-filled endgame to live another set on a couple of Dimdim Pacres clutch drop shots, a Gerflor flawed set and a Rap Aguilar blast.
Andrea Marzan then took over in the fourth, scoring almost at will with her quick attacks off Fhen Emnas’ brilliant playmaking as the Highrisers pulled away from a 14-11 lead with a six-point binge before cruising to a seven-point romp on an Emnas 1-2 play.
While the Defenders tried to regain composure in the fifth, the Highrisers bristled with confidence and wrested early control at 6-3. Though Gerflor forced a tie on its own three-point roll, Galeries Tower, with Isay Jimenez combining forces with Marzan, regained a two-point lead at 9-7 and the Highrisers pounced on their rivals’ series of miscues to pound out the inspiring come-from-behind victory.
Coach Lerma Giron’ strategic brilliance also outshone counterpart Sammy Acaylar, motivating her wards to believe in themselves even in the most challenging stretch. The former also recalled Pacres from the bench at endgame and the former UST standout responded, scoring on a kill after getting foiled in her first try, sealing the victory for the Highrisers.
“First of all, thank you Lord, binigay samin tong first win sa conference. Kumbaga, they earned it naman eh. Talagang pinaghirapan nila,” said Giron. “Yun lang, we started very slow, yung first two sets — talagang, akala namin masstraight sets kami eh. Pero good thing is, alam natin yung ladies na talagang lalaban at lalaban. Yun nga lang, nagpapabugbog tapos sa dulo magttrabaho ng todo. So yun, pinaghirapan nila bawat puntos dun.”
It was a disheartening loss for the Defenders, who had entered the match without winning a single set in their first nine games. Despite winning the first two sets and taking command late in the third, however, they succumbed to pressure and reeled to their 10th straight defeat instead.
They now face the specter of losing all their games with the Cignal HD Spikers as their final elims rival on Dec. 5. The HD Spikers are in dire need of a win to secure the fourth and last Final Four seat.
The Highrisers actually yielded 44 points on unforced errors, majority in the first two-and-a-half sets, against the Defenders’ 31. But they made up for those glaring miscues but posting 62 attack points, 12 more than their rivals.
Galeries Tower also scored eight points on blocks against Gerflor’s two.
Marzan ended up with 14 points while Jimenez, Aguilar and Grazielle Bombita added nine markers apiece and Christine Francisco and Pacres finished with six and five points, respectively for the Highrisers.
The team’s collective effort was evident with 12 Highrisers contributing at least one point.
Emnas finished with 13 excellent sets, shining most in the last two frames while Juliet Catindig and Aguilar also anchored the team’s floor defense, coming through with 20 and 11 excellent digs, respectively, with Catindig likewise producing 11 excellent receptions.
“Masasabi ko lang sa teammates ko, nasubukan kasi yung katatagan. Hindi passion to eh, katatagan na lang eh. Yung gusto talaga manalo. So yun, sabi nga ni coach, we started slow talaga and alam namin hindi yun kami pero thankful sa teammates ko, bumawi kami sa third set, and thankful din ako ng sobra at umabot kami ng fifth set, at nanalo. So yun, sobrang happy ako and sobrang thankful ako sa teammates ko,” said Emnas.
Nette Villareal topscored for Gerflor with 12 points while Grace Berte scored 10 points, Menchie Tubiera and Danika Gendrauli added nine markers each and Jenny Gaviola and Jhona Rosal chipped in eight and six points, respectively.