Spikers' Turf: EJ Casana showing worth for Navy | Inquirer Sports

Spikers’ Turf: EJ Casana showing worth for Navy

/ 08:39 PM September 14, 2022
Casana Navy Spikers Turf

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MANILA, Philippines — PGJC-Navy coach Cecil Cruzada lauded the Sealions setter EJ Casana in ending Cignal’s three-year unbeaten run in the Spikers’ Turf.

Casana dished out 18 excellent sets while Jau Umandal unleashed 18 points to lead PGJC-Navy’s balanced attack and halt the 16-game run of defending champion Cignal, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-23, in the 2022 Open Conference on Tuesday at Paco Arena.

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Navy is a win closer to clinching a semifinal berth after tying its victim at 4-1. Cruzada credited their good start to Casana, who has been making the right plays on offense with Umandal and Greg Dolor in the wings.

“Malaking bagay talaga si EJ kasi dinadala niya yung mga spikers niya. Siya kasi yung inatasan ko na maging driver, kumbaga siya yung driver bahala na susunod yung mga spikers niya. Malaki yung tiwala ko sa kanya,” said Cruzada after the win.

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(EJ has been playing a huge role for the team. He is utilizing his spikers and making our offense work. He is tasked to be the team’s driver because he has to make his spikers work. I really trust him.)

When they took a 2-1 match advantage, the Sealions lost steam in the fourth set and trailed to Marck Espejo and the HD Spikers by eight, 12-20. But Casana refused to give up and delivered an on-point serving to spark a 7-0 run and eventually took a 23-22 lead.

Espejo tied the set but Ronniel Rosales and Umandal nailed the finishing blows to spoil Cignal’s entry to the semifinals.

“During the fourth set, Cignal is already pulling away. So during the timeout, we told each other to take it one point at a time, make a good service, try to block their attacks, and avoid errors,” said Casana in Filipino after scoring five points. “It feels good to beat the back-to-back champions. We thought that we already lost the fourth set but I just made sure to deliver a good service for my team until we won. I’m really proud of my teammates.”

Cruzada didn’t only praise Casana’s service but also the composure of the whole team to avoid a deciding fifth set against a dangerous Cignal side.

“EJ’s serving was the turning point of our comeback. But the whole team also showed great teamwork in the fourth by executing our plays and good passing. They really helped each other out,” she said.

Navy tries to book a semifinals ticket on Saturday against VNS-One Alicia (2-2) to join National University-Sta. Elena in the Final Four. However, Joeven Dela Vega is still recovering from a left ankle sprain he sustained against Army-Katinko last week and will miss two weeks, according to the Sealions coach.

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With Dela Vega likely returning in the semis or finals, Christian Marcelino, who has been instrumental in the past two games, continues to fill in the void.

“We have to rest him (Dela Vega) for two weeks because his ankle is still a bit swollen. We can’t force it. For now, he will rest and undergo therapy so he can return in the next round,” Cruzada said.

Casana has no plans of letting up after stunning a multi-titled franchise as it will fuel them to play better in their bid to become the first Spikers’ Turf champion in this pandemic era.

“We can’t relax and be complacent against VNS because they are eager to beat us since they suffered back-to-back losses. We will maintain our game and keep working hard in practice from this big win,” Casana said.

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