August 06, 2022

Cignal lives through in thriller, frustrates Army

In a tense-filled endgame of an energy-sapping match, Cignal HD kept its nerve in check and survived a defiant Army Black Mamba side, carving out a 26-24, 26-28, 25-18, 18-25, 16-14 decision in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference semifinals at the Ynares Center in Antipolo on Saturday.

The HD Spikers recovered from a fourth set meltdown, fought back from two points down midway in the decider then held on after blowing three match points on Ces Molina's kill and an Army attack error.

Joanne Bunag and the rest of Lady Troopers contested the last call, claiming a block touch, but officials ruled otherwise, enabling the HD Spikers to escape with the win and get back into the thick of things at 1-1 after dropping a four-setter to the PLDT High Speed Hitters last Thursday.

It was, however, an excruciating defeat for the Lady Troopers, who faded at the end of the pivotal third frame as fatigue kicked in following an exhausting back-to-back set that went over the distance. But they picked up their second wind in the fourth set and kept their energy bursting in the fifth to grab an 8-6 lead.

But the HD Spikers came out of the break smoking as Gel Cayuna and Rachel Anne Daquis keyed a big surge with two points apiece and Cignal went up again at 11-9 before a Ria Meneses quick attack coupled with a MJ Balse-Pabayo attack error put the team at match point, 14-11.

Army, however, regrouped and racked up three straight points to force an extension aided by a Meneses error but Molina scored on a perfect setup play by Cayuna and Bunag's attack sailed long after the HD Spikers kept the ball in play following a vicious Army assault in the previous play.

The loss virtually dashed the finals hopes of Army, which absorbed its third straight defeat after bowing to PLDT in three and yielding to Creamline in four.

Meneses took the scoring lead for Cignal with 23 points, the bulk of which she delivered via her signature quick attacks, while Molina finished with 16 hits and Daquis added 15 for Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos, who also drew a combined 18-point output from Roselyn Doria, Chay Troncoso and Angeli Araneta.

Cayuna had four points but shone with a brilliant 39 excellent set performance.

"Very thankful kami kasi medyo mabigat talaga ung napagdaanan namnin before the start of the semis," said delos Santos, who had to make do with seven or eight players at the end of the elims due to injury (to Molina) and other concerns to at least his four starters.

Gonzaga came away with 21 points, Bunag delivered 18 hits, Nene Bautista added 10 points and Jeanette Villareal chipped in nine hits for Army.

The back-to-the-wall Lady Trooopers played with a sense of urgency, dragging the HD Spikers into an extended first set duel before succumbing to a couple of miscues then fighting back from 16-19 down in the next to even things up in a set that also went past the route.

Gonzaga saved the first match point on a through-the-block hit then after Bunag served into the net to put Cignal at match point, the Cebuana lefty again saved the set for the Lady Troopers with another kill and came up with another in the ensuing play to shove Army to a 26-25 lead.

A Ging Balse-Pabayo service miscue kept Cignal alive but Balse took over with back-to-back power hits to send the match to where it had started.