CEBU, Philippines – Cignal brushed off a lethargic start before escaping with a pulsating 21-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 win over Systema in the 2014 PLDT Home-Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference volleyball tournament yesterday at the University of San Carlos gym here.
Cebuano hotshot Mike Abria delivered the dagger down the stretch to help the HD Spikers seal their fourth win in six games in the men’s division of the inter-club tournament backed by its official airline, AirAsia, in partnership with Gilligan’s Restaurant, Healthway Medical, PLDT Home DSL, Cignal, Solar Sports, Mikasa, Asics, Mueller, LGR, Petron, Bench and Generika.
Abria, the hard-hitting spiker from the University of the Visayas, finished with only 11 points, but unleashed a booming kill off the Active Smashers’ lousy reception for the match point, much to the delight of the wild capacity crowd that packed the venue for the league’s first-ever out-of-town game.
Howard Mojica nailed 15 kills for a total of 18 points while Edmar Sanchez and Jay Dela Cruz chipped in 12 and 10 markers, respectively for the HD Spikers, who were surprised by Systema’s offensive adjustments and renewed hunger entering the match.
“Ibang-iba ang ipinakita ng Systema sa simula pa lang kaya nagulat kami (Systema’s performance threw us off),” said Cignal coach Mike Carino, whose wards are now in the solo second spot behind unbeaten leader PLDT-Air Force.
“Sobrang importante ng larong ito sa amin kaya sinabihan ko ang mga bata na gawin lahat para makuha ang panalo. Alam nila na kaming dalawa ng Systema ang mag-uunahan para sa second spot. Mabuti na lang at lahat sila nag-step up (We were well aware how important this game was for us, as we’re disputing second spot with Systema and I’m glad everybody stepped up).”
After surrendering the first set, the HD Spikers recovered their form and easily claimed the second and third sets. But the fourth set was an entirely different story as John Depante caught fire, igniting a late-set mutiny to inch to within a hairline, 23-24.
But Systema failed to come up with a good reception in the ensuing play, setting the stage for Abria to deliver the kill.
“Mike (Abria dished out an incredible performance),” Carino said. “He dedicates this game to all the Cebuanos. Dito sya sumikat, dito sya nagkapangalan so alam namin kung gaano nya kagusto manalo (He was returning to his roots here and we knew he would do everything to perform well and help us win).”
Depante tallied 12 of his 16 points on kills while Christopher Antonio and Mark Lee chipped in 13 and 12 markers, respectively, for the Active Smashers, who fell to third place with a 3-3 win-loss card entering the crucial phase of the classification round.