CIGNAL picked up from where it left off, pounding out a tough 25-18, 25-20, 25-21 victory over National U to gain the head-start in the five-team semifinals of the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference at the Paco Arena in Manila on Wednesday.
Coach Dexter Clamor pulled off a gem of a switch, inserting Ysay Marasigan in the third set and the seasoned team captain, still hobbled by a calf strain, responded, producing hard serves that forced the Nationals to commit three consecutive errors, leading to a big six-point binge that turned a 14-18 deficit into a decisive advantage.
Jade Disquitado and Nico Almendras tried to steer NU back into the match with stinging attacks but Wendel Miguel and Jau Umandal countered with clutch hits with the latter delivering the last two points on a check ball and an off-the-block blast, shattering the Nationals’ hopes for a comeback.
“In the third set, we are too complacent because we’re ahead earlier, but we found ourselves trailing later on. What’s really good about this team is we never give up,” said Clamor, whose wards thus stretched their win run to six, counting the five it posted in sweeping the Pool C elims play.
It was actually Cignal’s 21st win in row, including 15 in sweeping the Open Conference crown last March.
Miguel, back in harness after being sidelined by a lower back injury, led Cignal with 16 points, including 13 on attacks, and finished with eight excellent receptions to bag the game’s top honors.
“It was very frustrating on my part not to be able to help in the previous conference, so yung mindset talaga ay yung tumulong sa teammates,” said Miguel, who underlined the team’s mindset of patience and trust in Clamor’s instructions.
“Patience and trust about the instructions of our coach,” Miguel said.
Umandal came through with 13 attack points for a 14-point output while JP Bugaoan tallied nine points built on four blocks and Peter Torres and Lloyd Josafat had seven and four markers, respectively.
Libero Manuel Sumanguid III also put up a stellar performance in defense, delivering the first passes to setter EJ Casana, leading to a formidable offensive strategy and resulting in a number of attack points that left the Nationals struggling to respond.
Casana produced 20 excellent sets while Sumanguid registered 12 excellent receptions and six excellent digs.
The straight-set win didn’t actually reflect how the two teams gutted it out in kills and blocks but Cignal’s efficient reception stood out throughout the one-hour, 26-minute encounter.
Disquitado paced NU with 17 points on 15 attacks and two blocks that went with 17 excellent receptions and two digs while Almendras settled for nine points and Leo Ordiales and Obed Mukaba finished with seven and five points, respectively, for the Nationals, who sorely missed the services of hitters Buds Buddin and Leo Aringo, Jr.