CEBU , Philippines -- Michelle Gumabao made an explosive comeback as she powered AirAsia to a resounding 25-23, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23 victory over powerhouse Petron in the 2014 PLDT Home-Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference volleyball tournament late Saturday at the University of San Carlos gym here.
After missing more than two months of action, the lovely Gumabao celebrated her return with a sizzling performance to help the Flying Spikers move closer towards one of the two outright semifinal berths in the women’s division of this 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.
AirAsia is now in a three-way logjam with Generika Army and RC Cola-Air Force on top of the team standings with a 4-2 win-loss card while the Blaze Spikers slid to the second spot with 3-2, putting them in a must-win situation against cellar-dweller Cignal HD on Wednesday.
Displaying a combination of talent and beauty, Gumabao made the most out of her limited minutes as she dazzled her Cebuano fans with flashes of brilliance that shoved Petron and its star rookie, Dindin Santiago, out of their comfort zone.
She finished with only three points, but did a lot of intangible damage, enough for AirAsia coach Ramil de Jesus to hail her as the hero of the game.
“Thumbs-up ako kay Michelle,” said De Jesus, referring to Gumabao, the former University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Most Valuable Player who missed their first five games to attend to her budding career in show business.
“She had only three practice sessions with us. So, I didn’t really expect this kind of performance from her. She did a lot of things that don’t reflect on the stat sheet. It was her defense, heart, hustle and leadership which gave us this win.”
Skipper Cha Cruz led the assault with 13 smashes for a total of 19 points while Stephanie Mercado contributed 14 markers for the Flying Spikers, who obviously took advantage of the Blaze Spikers’ chaotic attacks and low morale in the early goings of the match.
Santiago, the top overall pick who averaged a shade over 30 points in her first three outings, looked tired, slow and sluggish as she notched only 15 kills for a total of 17 points, a lowly production that duplicates her effort in their 23-25, 23-25, 19-25 setback to the Lady Troopers last week.
“Galing sa talo ang Petron so expected na namin na medyo mababa ang morale nila entering this game,” De Jesus added. “Aside from that, maganda din ang ipinakita namin, especially on the defensive end where we contained Dindin and other attackers.”