STREAKING PGJC-Navy and resurgent National University (NU)-Sta. Elena clash Saturday in a key match for at least a crack at the second finals berth as Cignal tries to recover lost ground against VNS-One Alicia in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference semifinals at the Paco Arena.
The Sealions repelled the Griffins, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22, while the Nationals pulled off a stirring come-from-behind 20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-10 win over the stunned HD Spikers to gain the head-start in the round-robin semifinals Thursday.
That makes the 2:30 p.m. encounter so crucial for the Sealions and the Nationals with the winner gaining the inside track to the finals of what has been a hit-and-miss race among the league’s top four teams.
But while Navy is out to extend its win run to six, including four that capped its explosive elims windup, Sta. Elena rides on the crest of a vengeful win over Cignal, which foiled its sweep bid in the elims with a three-straight romp last Tuesday.
The HD Spikers actually looked all set to duplicating that win after taking the first two sets in their rematch just 48 hours later. But the young Nationals proved they were far from being finished, fighting back from the brink behind Michael Buddin and Nico Almendras and completing the improbable reversal to the chagrin of their seasoned rivals.
While the heavy-hitting Buddin and Almendras will be the Sealions’ main concern, the latter must also find ways to get through the tall Nationals’ solid blocking that has anchored their remarkable run in the tournament.
But with their experience, Greg Dolor, Jao Umandal and Peter Quiel along with young guns Jemmy Entig and Joeven dela Vega sure have aces up their sleeves, guaranteeing a slam-bang action from start-to-finish.
The HD Spikers, on the other hand, can’t wait to vent their frustration to the Griffins in their 5:30 p.m. face-off with the back-to-back defending champions seeking to duplicate their straight-set win in the elims and get back into the thick of things.
But Cignal will need a healthy Marck Espejo to do the job after the power-hitting Japan league veteran, slowed down by a heel injury, was pulled out as the National pulled away towards the end of the decider.
Coach Dexter Clamor, however, has a slew of hitters ready to step up, including JP Bugaoan, Louie Ramirez, Edward Camposano, Rex Intal, Peter Torres and the seldom-used Chumason Njigha.
The fourth-ranked Griffins, however, remain unfazed with Ron Adviento, Uriel Mendoza, Kevin Montemayor and the high-flying, crisp-hitting Ben San Andres ready and out to prove their worth as a strong title contender.
Matches are aired on One Sports and One Sports+ and the league’s official website http://spikersturf.ph/live.