MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Army had been banking on its veteran core of skipper Joanne Bunag, Mary Jean Balse and Cristina Salak all throughout the tournament.
But with the three seemingly struggling to convert in the fourth set and Cignal threatening to even the championship match at two sets apiece, the Lady Troopers found a spark in young spiker Jovelyn Gonzaga Sunday night.
The 21-year-old Gonzaga provided the unexpected boost at the most opportune time with 12 points and nine excellent digs to help douse the HD Spikers’ rally behind Honey Royse Tubino.
“[It’s] overwhelming [to be part of this team]. Ako yung isa sa mga bata sa team so kailangan ko talagang gumawa para matulungan yung mga legends namin (I’m one of the youngest players in the team so I need to work hard to help our legends),” said the lefty Gonzaga, who showed power in her spikes with 11 hard hits.
Inaugural champion Army, which ended the tourney on a six-game winning streak after losing its first assignment, posted an 18-10 advantage in the fourth set before Tubino kept Cignal’s title hopes going with three unanswered points.
Balse, who top scored with 16 points, and Bunag, who also had 12, were solid early in the fourth set but cooled off in the latter part.
And that paved the way for Gonzaga to rise to the occasion.
Gonzaga keyed in a crucial run for Army – accounting three of the team’s next four points – to stretch the Lady Troopers’ lead to nine, 22-13, as the HD Spikers never recovered from there.