MANILA, Philippines -- The absence of their primary playmaker did not faze the Cignal HD Spikers as they cruised to a third consecutive victory in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference on Saturday night.
Gal Cayuna was rested for the HD Spikers' showdown against Chery Tiggo but they still came away with a 25-23, 25-16, 25-18 triumph in just an hour and 30 minutes.
Earning plaudits for her performance was reserve setter Ayel Estrañero, who ably stepped in for Cayuna and finished with two points and 12 excellent sets.
"Nakaka-proud kasi siyempre, another opportunity na nabigay namin kay Ayel, and knowing her naman, before naman mag-game, na-explain ko na rin naman sa kanya [ang sitwasyon]," said Cignal HD coach Shaq delos Santos.
Save for a blip midway through the first set, it was smooth-sailing for the HD Spikers with Estrañero pulling the strings. They rallied from an 13-18 deficit in the opener, helped along by hitting errors from the Crossovers. After an attack fault by Mylene Paat gave Cignal HD a 24-23 lead, Estrañero fired an ace to seal the deal.
The former University of the Philippines (UP) standout credited the trust of her teammates and coaches for her solid play, particularly veterans such as Rachel Anne Daquis and Ces Molina.
"'Yung lakas ko talaga tsaka 'yung confidence ko, nanggagaling din sa tiwala nila sa akin. Tsaka 'yung simpleng tapik nila, simpleng instructions ni coach, malaking bagay 'yun," said Estrañero.
Molina continued her superb start to the conference with 16 points on 13 kills and two aces, while Angeli Araneta had 10 points and Daquis scored seven off the bench.
"Privilege 'yun, kasi hindi naman lahat gets the chance para maging teammate sila," Estrañero said of getting the opportunity to set for the likes of Molina and Daquis. "Alam ko kahit anong i-set ko, kahit magkamali ako, gagawin nila 'yung best."
"Siyempre, veterans na rin sila. Iba rin talaga if meron kang mga ate sa loob ng court," she added.
With Saturday's win, Cignal HD is now 3-0 in the conference heading into a blockbuster showdown against Creamline on Thursday.