Volleyball: Go for Gold avoids upset axe against Manileño

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2021 12:50 PM | Updated as of Nov 29 2021 03:04 PM

The Go for Gold Air Force Aguilas were triumphant in their first game of the PNVF Champions League. Photo courtesy of the PNVF
The Go for Gold Air Force Aguilas were triumphant in their first game of the PNVF Champions League. Photo courtesy of the PNVF

(UPDATED) Kim Malabunga was clutch down the stretch as powerhouse Go for Gold escaped with a five-set victory over the youthful VNS Manileño Spikers, Monday in the first game of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Champions League for Men at the Aquamarine Recreational Center in Lipa City, Batangas.

The Air Force Aguilas twice overcame a one-set deficit to come away with a 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 15-11 triumph for a winning start in Pool A.

A running hit by Malabunga secured Go for Gold's 25-23 triumph in the fourth set, giving them momentum heading into the deciding frame.

The veteran squad, which featured several national team players, raced to a 4-1 lead in Set 5 with former National University standout Edwin Tolentino making the crucial plays.

But Manileño worked its way back behind Morris Gavan and Benedict San Andres, with the former firing an off-the-block hit that trimmed the deficit to two points, 12-10. Go for Gold's Reuben Inaudito then sent an attack long to make it a one-point game, 12-11.

Manileño had no answer for Malabunga, however, as the towering middle blocker scored on power tips on back-to-back rallies to put Go for Gold at match point, 14-11.

A single block by veteran Mark Alfafara on Roniey Adviento secured the win for the Air Force Aguilas.

Malabunga finished with 16 points, while Alfafara scored five of his 19 points on kill blocks and also added nine digs for an all-around effort.

Go for Gold flaunted its depth in the game, with coach Dante Alinsunurin getting contributions off the bench from Inaudito as well as Lloyd Josafat, a standout from the University of the East.

"We have a fresh start and the team which is very determined to win will reach on top," said Alinsunurin after the game.

"Although the result has a lot to be desired, at least there will be an interesting competition. The most important thing, the level of competition will go a notch higher. We were very lucky we were able to recover in the end," he added.

Gavan finished with 17 points in a losing effort, and San Andres added 13 points and 16 excellent receptions.

Go for Gold will be back in action on Tuesday against the Basilan Steel Spikers, while Manileño plays Basilan on Wednesday.

The top two teams in the group will advance to the semifinals of the Champions League, which offers a spot to the 2022 Asian Men's Club Volleyball Championship to the winning team.