Sandugo-SSC holds off Cagayan in Game One

By Joey Villar, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 17 2012 11:06 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2012 07:06 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sandugo-San Sebastian twice fought back from one-set deficits and made it three-in-row over newcomer Cagayan Valley-Perpetual Help, carving out an 18-25, 29-27, 14-25, 25-13, 15-7 victory to move a win closer to the Shakey’s V-League Open crown at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium yesterday.

Thai imports Jang Bualee and Utaiwan Kaensing conspired up front and unloaded a combined 49 hits, including a whopping 40-kill effort that practically scuttled the Rising Suns and powered the Lady Stags to the win in the opener of their best-of-three series for the mid-season conference crown in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.

It was, however, Sandugo-SSC's experience, power game and net defense that spelled the difference at endgame.

"We made the necessary adjustment in the way we're defending up front," said Sandugo-San Sebastian coach Roger Gorayeb in Filipino.

Down 1-2 after three sets, the Lady Stags never got discouraged and made it so simple in the fourth, scoring on quick plays and drop shots while the foiling Cagayan hitters with a stonewall defense anchored on the towering Utaiwan Kaensing to force a decider.

It was more of the same in the fifth with the Lady Stags, with Jeng Bualee on the firing end, piling up four straight points to shatter a 3-all count which they used as a cushion to seal the victory.

The power-hitting Bualee came away with 24 kills and finished with 26 markers while drawing solid backup from Kaensing, who had four blocks, three service aces and 16 hits, majority of them on quick, scoop shots that the Rising Suns had no answer for.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley-Perpetual Help’s Sandra delos Santos bagged the MVP honors while Bualee took the best scorer plum for the sixth time during awards rites graced by Shakey's general manager Vic Gregorio and Ricky Palou, president of the organizing Sports Vision.

Earlier, Marge Tejada stepped up in the decider and delivered the last two points as Ateneo hacked out a 25-21, 19-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13 victory over last year's champion Army at the start of their own best-of-three series for third.

The other top individual performers in the ninth season of the league, backed by Mikasa and Accel and organized by Sports Vision were Honey Tubino of Cagayan (best attacker), Thai Utaiwan Kaensing of Sandugo-SSC (best blocker), Beatrice Dionela of Cagayan (best digger), Army’s Tina Salak (best setter), Joy Cases of Cagayan (best server) and Angela Nunag of Army (best receiver).

Angela Benting added eight markers while Nene Bautista, Suzanne Roces and Rhea Dimaculangan combined for 19 points for the Lady Stags, who will try to wrap up the series and nail their second crown tomorrow at 6 p.m.

"We made the necessary adjustment in the way we're defending up front," said Sandugo-San Sebastian coach Roger Gorayeb in Filipino.

It was a sorry loss for Cagayan-Perpetual Help, which appeared to have seized the momentum twice, the last in the third set it completely dominated.

But the Lady Stags, who had beaten the Rising Suns twice in the elims, had other things in mind.

They raced to 12-6 lead in the fourth and never looked back, scoring in spurts to pad their margin to 17-7 before cruising to victory to draw level and then stamping their class in the fifth to fashion out the win.

Tubino and Thai Kunbang Pornpimol fired 17 hits apiece while Delos Santos and another Thai reinforcement Sutadta Cheuwulim had 11 and 10, respectively. But the foursome lost steam in the last two sets, enabling the Lady Stags to turn things around.