UNBLEMISHED Cignal HD clawed back from two sets down to eclipse College of St. Benilde, 23-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-10, and book a ticket in the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Champions League final on Friday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
A searing 7-0 start in the final set anchored by Glaudine Troncoso’s timely eruption spelled the difference for the HD Spikers, who had to turn every corner from a 0-2 deficit to survive the Lady Blazers on their way to the one-game championship on Saturday.
Troncoso fired six of his 15 points in the clincher, highlighted by a personal 4-0 blast as Cignal extended their perfect run to five games after wiping out the elimination round for the top seeding in the Final Four.
Ces Molina, Ria Meneses and Chin Basas added 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively while Vanie Gandler had nine points featuring a couple of crucial hits down the stretch to repel St. Benilde’s comeback attempt.
Cignal will face either Chery Tiggo or Petro Gazz, which were still clashing as of press time, for the coveted title of the PNVF’s first event backed by PLDT, Ayala Land, Nuvali, Cignal, One Sports, One Sports+, Mikasa, Senoh, Foton, the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission.
“I think it’s our maturity. Experience-wise, lamang kami,” said coach Shaq Delos Santos on the gritty escape act against the young but formidable Lady Blazers, two-time champions of the NCAA.
“’Yung momentum rin siguro after namin makuha ‘yung third set. Malaking bagay ‘yun. Again, ‘yung tiwala lang siguro sa team na hindi ko pwedeng tanggalin. Never mawawala ‘yung tiwala ko sa kanila.”
Cignal, amidst a bevy of adversities, indeed banked on its veteran pedigree to subdue the only collegiate squad in the five-team tilt of the PNVF headed by president Ramon “Tats” Suzara.
Like their hard-earned 18-25, 25-21, 25-17, 17-25, 15-13 win in the elimination round, the HD Spikers saw themselves in a similar dogfight after surrendering the first two frames in the slimmest of margins, 23-25, 22-25.
As expected, the seasoned squad boosted by the acquisition of prized libero Dawn Macandili from the disbanded F2 Logistics slowly but surely regained their groove, none bigger than a comeback from an 11-14 deficit in the fourth frame to force a decider.
There was no stopping the HD Spikers from there on, getting off to the races for a 3-0 start before Troncoso unloaded four straight hits for a quick 7-0 blitz that pretty much took the fight out of the Lady Blazers.
Amidst St. Benilde’s fightback, Gandler then took over in the clutch to finish what Troncoso started with three crucial points including a crosscourt hit for a 13-7 cushion as Jacqueline Acuña dropped it on the right wing for the final tally.
Gayle Pascual hammered 18 points while Zamantha Nolasco and Corrine Apostol had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the PNVF Challenge Cup champions, who will try to salvage the bronze medal against the loser between Chery Tiggo and Petro Gazz.