Stung by Choco Mucho’s flying start, Cignal HD struck hard in the second set and sustained its assault while cashing in on every break to fashion out an 17-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-14 victory and clinch the fourth and last semifinal berth in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Tuesday.
Armed with superior points over the Flying Titans in case of a tie for No. 4, the HD Spikers needed just three sets to advance although the Flying Titans’ hot start sparked hopes for a big surge by one of the league’s crowd favorites seeking to make it to the Final Four via backdoor.
“We really felt the pressure in the first set. It’s a wake-up call for us,” said Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos in Filipino. “But we pushed them (HD Spikers), reminding them that we shouldn’t blow this chance and just do what we have been doing in training, keep the (winning) mindset and use our experience and not to be complacent.”
The HD Spikers did put their act together in time, battling the Flying Titans to a back-and-forth duel in the second frame before surging ahead at 20-17 on a Tai Bierria kill.
Cignal stayed three points clear at 22-19 on a Fatima General spectacular save that barely hit the net before dropping on Choco Mucho’s court but import Odina Aliyeva, back in the roster after recovering from Covid-19-like symptoms, fired back-to-back kills to save two set points for the Flying Titans.
Maddie Madayag, however, served long in the ensuing play, enabling the HD Spikers to draw level and move within a set from accomplishing their mission.
Cignal kept the momentum of that crucial win while Choco Mucho struggled trying to regroup as the HD Spikers wrested control early in the third, 12-6, and virtually put a lock on the last semis berth when Choco Mucho’s top local scorer Kat Tolentino sustained a knee injury and limped out of the court.
Des Cheng followed Tolentino to the bench minutes later on a finger injury and the HD Spikers stepped up their attack from all angles on their way to building a 13-6 bulge on a Ria Meneses point off a joust. The Flying Titans did rally by stringing five straight points to pull within two but a Deanna Wong service miscue and a Cignal ace put the HD Spikers back in control to claim the set – and the coveted semis slot.
“It’s super special, considering how we worked hard for this,” said Cignal import Tai Bierria of their clutch victory.
The American was far from her top form against the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers the last time out, finishing with six points although the HD Spikers still hacked out a four-set victory to zero in on the semis.
But Bierria came out of a three-day break fresh and rattled off 18 points she laced with four kill blocks while Ces Molina backed her up with a superb 13-point showing. Roselyn Doria finished with nine points while Meneses flourished at the middle and added eight points.
Cignal barely beat Choco Mucho in attacks, 49-46, but came away with 14 blocks, nearly doubling their rivals’ 8-block output. The HD Spikers also scored 28 off the Flying Titans’ unforced errors while 22 of their own.
Cheng topscored for Choco Mucho with 15 points while Tolentino finished with nine points and Aliyeva ended up with eight markers, the same output put in by Isa Molde.
Choco Mucho wound up tied with Akari and PLDT with 3-5 cards.