MANILA, Philippines - Rookie team Iriga City passed its first major test with flying colors as it survived a gritty Sta. Lucia Realty side, 15-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-13, in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Tuesday night at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Serbian reinforcement Tamara Kmezic was impressive down the stretch, carrying the Lady Oragons to their first victory.
Kmezic, the league’s tallest import at 6-foot-6, fired 26 kills for a total of conference-high 28 points, while local star Grethcel Soltones and Japanese reinforcement Saama Miyagawa chipped in 15 and 10 markers, respectively.
Kmezic's intimidating presence on both ends also helped the Lady Oragons push through in the crucial moments of the fifth set.
"Sinabi ko sa kanila na kung mahina ang loob nyo, talo na tayo. So, dapat lumaban tayo hanggang sa dulo," said Iriga City coach Parley Tupaz.
Iriga clawed their way back from a 5-11 deficit in the deciding frame en route to the morale-boosting victory.
"Siguro lucky lang. Pero step by step lang. Ganun talaga eh, since first-timer kami, tingin sa amin mababa lang. Kung sa sundalo, ikaw ang lowest kasi naguumpisa ka pa lang naman," said Tupaz.
Indeed, luck was on Iriga City's side as Kmezic and Shyrra Cabriana anchored a rally that stunned the Lady Realtors.
After trailing by as many as six in the fifth set, 5-11, Cabriana unloaded a bomb from the service box to make it 8-11 before Kmezic delivered back-to-back kills to inch closer, 10-11.
MJ Philips then committed an attack error in the ensuing play before Kmezic knocked down a kill and a block, followed by another ace by Cabriana to give the Lady Oragons the match point, 14-11.
“Sinabi ko kay (Kmezic) ‘to spike hard.’ Ang laki nya eh. Pero baka naga-adjust pa siya kasi iba naman ang laro ng Asian sa European,” Tupaz said.
Philips fired 21 kills, three blocks and two aces for 26 points, while Canadian reinforcement Marisa Field had 15 markers for the Lady Realtors, who fell short despite the presence of new head coach Jerry Yee.
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