Cignal recoiled from a lackluster start coming off a 10-day break, dispatching Gerflor, 25-22, 25-11, 25-10, and collaring the fourth and last semifinal berth in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City on Tuesday.
Gen Casugod came off the bench to fire nine points, matching top hitter Ces Molina’s output while Vanie Gandler scored eight points and Jovelyn Gonzaga added seven markers as the HD Spikers settled down to re-establish control in the last two sets after a wobbly stint in the opener that had the Defenders out-hitting them, 16-14.
But they regrouped and dished out the game expected of them at the resumption of the match, unloading 16 attack points while limiting their young rivals to just five spikes. The HD Spikers also pounced on the Defenders’ service reception struggles and scored four aces on their way to the lopsided 14-point win.
Coach Shaq delos Santos also took advantage of their huge lead to provide playing time for the bench players with Casugod responding and spearheading the HD Spikers’ relentless charge in the third, leading to the 70-minute romp that sent them to the Final Four with the Creamline Cool Smashers, the Choco Mucho Flying Titans and the Chery Tiggo Crossovers.
They finished at 8-3 (win-loss), matching the Crossovers record but the HD Spikers took the No. 3 spot in the rankings due to higher tiebreak points.
The No. 1 Creamline will thus face No. 4 Chery Tiggo while Choco Mucho and Cignal tangle in a pair of best-of-three semis playoffs starting tomorrow (Thursday), also at the Philsports Arena.
Cignal’s victory likewise dashed the hopes of Petro Gazz and PLDT, both with 6-4 cards. The Angels and the High Speed Hitters were playing for final placings at presstime.
The Defenders, determined to nail the elusive first win, surprised the HD Spikers with superior attacks and blocks, 3-2, in the early going but yielded too many unforced errors – eight – ultimately leading to their three-point loss.
With Danika Gendrauli and Grace Berte delivering on opposite wings, the Defenders posted three two-point leads in the first frame while defending the HD Spikers’ attacks with aplomb to force a tie three times.
As Cignal, which swept Nxled last Nov. 25 before taking a long respite, scored three straight hits to break a 13-all count, Gerflor struck back with two consecutive points and kept it close to the finish, 22-24, on a Gendrauli power hit.
But a Roselyn Doria putaway off Gyzelle Sy’s one-handed set sealed the win for Cignal, which finished with 39 attack points against Gerflor’s 24, and made eight aces, seven more than the Defenders.
Riri Meneses added six points in a dominant stint in the middle in the second set, Doria and Jacqui Acuña each had three points, while Cayuna wound up with five points on top of 16 excellent sets that earned her the game’s top honors.
Gendrauli scored nine points while Berte finished with eight points for the Defenders, who closed out their maiden campaign in the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision without a win in 11 matches.