INQUIRER.NET

Rookie squad makes Sta. Lucia feel its sting

Rookie team Iriga City passed its first major test with flying colors as it survived a gritty Sta. Lucia Realty side, 15-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-13, in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Tuesday night at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Serbian reinforcement Tamara Kmezic was impressive down the stretch, carrying the Lady Oragons to their first victory in this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Cignal, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, Grand Sport, Rebisco, Island Rose, Cloudfone, UCPB Gen and Asics.

Kmezic, the league’s tallest import at 6-foot-6, fired 26 kills for a conference-high total of 28 points while local star Grethcel Soltones and Japanese reinforcement Saama Miyagawa chipped in 15 and 10 points, respectively.

But more than anything, it was Kmezic’s intimidating presence on both ends that helped the Lady Oragons in the crucial moments of the fifth set.

“Sinabi ko sa kanila na kung mahina ang loob nyo, talo na tayo. So, dapat lumaban tayo hanggang sa dulo,” said Iriga City coach Parley Tupaz, whose wards crawled from a deep 5-11 hole in the fifth set en route to posting the morale-boosting victory in this tourney that has ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.

“Siguro lucky lang. Pero step by step lang. Ganun talaga eh, since first-timer kami, tingin sa amin mababa lang. Kung sa sundalo, ikaw ang lowest kasi naguumpisa ka pa lang naman.”

True enough, luck was on the Lady Oragons’ side as Kmezic and Shyrra Cabriana engineered an oozing rally that left the Lady Realtors grasping for form.

After trailing by as many as six in the fifth set, 5-11, Cabriana unloaded a bomb from the service box to make it 8-11 before Kmezic delivered back-to-back kills to inch closer, 10-11.

MJ Philips then committed an attack error in the ensuing play before Kmezic knocked down a kill and a block, followed by another ace by Cabriana to give the Lady Oragons the match point, 14-11.

“Sinabi ko kay (Kmezic) ‘to spike hard.’ Ang laki nya eh. Pero baka naga-adjust pa sya kasi iba naman ang laro ng Asian sa European,” Tupaz said.

Philips fired 21 kills, three blocks and two aces for 26 points while Canadian reinforcement Marisa Field had 15 markers for the Lady Realtors, who fell short despite the presence of new head coach Jerry Yee.

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