The San Sebastian Lady Stags announced their delayed entry into the Season 91 women’s volleyball finals by taking Game 3 in straight sets and sending the series to a fourth and deciding match on Thursday.
How did they turn things around?
No special strategies, just an aggressive attack and a better commitment to playing defense.
In Game 2, Baste fell behind in three of the four sets and had to play catch up. For Game 3, they pretty much led all throughout. In my Game 2 analysis, for all of Grethcel Soltones’ ton of points, they have a more varied attack with combination plays and back row attacks -- none of which is in Benilde’s arsenal.
Their serve was better giving Benilde all sorts of fits as they couldn’t receive. Poor receiving translates into fewer quality sets, more turnovers, and more free balls.
Soltones wasn’t an army of one even if she scored 31 points. Katherine Villegas added 11 while Nikka Dalisay and Joyce Sta. Rita added eight points apiece. Denice Lim, a surprise starter, played well especially in the latter stages as she began to hit the ball with more resolve en route to six points. She never came off the court and late in the match, Baste head coach Roger Gorayeb fielded Dangie Encarnacion who was fresh and gave her side much needed scoring sock. Despite playing only in the final set and not starting at that, she managed six points, same as her Game 2 output. But she was more focused this time around. Quality and timely sub.
Vira Guillema had fewer sets (12 to her 15 in Game 2) but she compensated by committing fewer turnovers and played better defense. There were several occasions where she set up Soltones thrice in succession after getting initially blocked but more often than not, they scored.
A smaller rotation for Baste but it worked out quite well.
Defensively, the Lady Stags attempted 50 blocks -- a much better stat than the 37 they managed in Game 2. Their floor defense was better with fewer holes in the back.
Was Grethcel Soltones buoyed by her sudden reunion with her mother?
According to Coach Roger Gorayeb, no. And I agree. Grethcel always plays this way — buoyant, exuberant, and an all-around force. And the league’s back-to-back MVP did everything once more — serve, hit, receive, set up a teammate, block. The difference was her teammates helped out and when they needed a point, more often than not, Soltones scored.
During Game 2, a CSB team official would tell his team that the Lady Stags and Soltones were tiring. Not true. Soltones is built to play long sets and matches. As I said in my post-Game 2 analysis, for San Sebastian to get in the game, they need the others to contribute. That is what happened.
After the Lady Blazers forced a fourth set, the Lady Stags didn’t collapse. They just went out and executed their game plan consistently.
Is it possible that the CSB Lady Blazers were overconfident? I don’t think so. Maybe jittery in closing out the series. The aggressive tone of San Sebastian from the start had CSB collectively reeling. The Lady Stags gave them a dose of their own medicine after they had to rally time and again in Game 2. Game 3 showed San Sebastian flush with confidence.
When you’re aggressive at that net, you also create your own luck. The Lady Blazers were less daring and a tad hesitant. And they paid for it.
Is the momentum with San Sebastian?
Momentum is a slippery slope. You can say that going up, 2-0, all the momentum was with Benilde but they were jumped on by the Lady Stags. So not really. Taking the first set of Game 4 would be huge for either squad. If the Lady Stags play the way they did in Game 3, they’ll be tough to stop.
Now here’s to the Filoil Flying V Arena playing to a packed crowd this Thursday because we’re in for one whopper of a finish.