MANILA, Philippines - It was long time coming for ace hitter but a quick one for coach.
Sandugo-San Sebastian’s sweep of the Shakey’s V-League Open crown ended a long, long chase for a championship by Thai ace Jang Bualee, who had toiled for seven years to finally savor the sweet taste of victory.
“I was never discouraged by the previous setbacks,” said Bualee, who had at least three runner-up finishes with the Lady Stags.
Coach Roger Gorayeb actually entered Game 2 of the finals with tempered expectations especially after the Lady Stags had to sweat it out in a 18-25, 29-27, 14-25, 25-13, 15-7 victory over the Cagayan-Perpetual Rising Suns in the opener of the championship series Sunday.
But the Sandugo-backed squad, with Bualee on the firing end, summoned their A-games and poured it all to come away with a one-sided 25-18, 25-22, 25-16 conquest of the Rising Suns and run away with the coveted crown Tuesday night.
“Based on the way we’re playing, I was confident of our chances for the crown but not too much expecting a sweep,” said Gorayeb in Filipino.
“As a coach I wanted a sweep but last time, we were forced to the limit but still prevailed. I’m happy we eventually pulled through despite having only 10 players,” he added.
Bualee, the Finals MVP, banged away 12 hits and two service aces to lead the Lady Stags to the championship, marking her breakthrough success after falling short the previous campaigns the last seven years in the country’s premier women’s volley league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.
“I’m happy for Jang, it’s her first time to win a championship here. There are those saying she’s a jinx, having not won a championship prior to this, but that’s not true since she’s been winning games for us before,” said Gorayeb.
Bualee did not do it all by herself as the rest of the team led by countrywoman Utaiwan Kaensing (12) and team captain Suzanne Roces (12) ably backed her up.
In the first set, Nene Bautista punched in three straight points, including back-to-back aces, as Sandugo seized control, 20-16, en route to a 25-18 set win.
Bualee, Roces and Angela Benting gave the Lady Stags a 23-19 cushion in the second frame, and after three straight miscues shoved the Rising Suns to within a point, Utaiwan and Bautista rose to the occasion and closed the set out.
The third frame saw Bautista, Utaiwan and Rhea Dimaculangan lead Sandugo-SCC to a 9-1 start only to allow Cagayan-Perpetual to come close at 14-17. Bualee smashed it in and fired an ace to restore a comfortable spread that the Lady Stags protected all the way through as their orange-clad band and supporters roar in jubilation.
“This is the first time we have a sponsor who’s been very supportive so we’re all inspired,” said Gorayeb, who also achieved a personal milestone in steering two teams to the championship in a single year in the tournament organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Accel. He led Ateneo to the first conference title last summer.