Spikers’ Turf: Nico Almendras stars anew as NU-Sta. Elena nears finals
MANILA, Philippines — Nico Almendras sustained his fine play as National University-Sta. Elena moved on the cusp of the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference Finals after sweeping PGJC-Navy, 25-21, 25-17, 26-24, on Saturday at Paco Arena.
After exploding for 30 points in a come-from-behind five-set victory over defending champion Cignal on Thursday, Almendras again led the Nationals’ collective effort with 16 points built on 13 attacks, two blocks, and an ace for their second win in the semifinal round.
Obed Mukaba also stepped up for NU with 14 points off eight attacks, three blocks, and three aces to outplay Navy in just 90 minutes.
Star playmaker Joshua Retamar was equally impressive with 21 excellent sets on top of seven points, including three blocks as NU will try to sweep the semis and seal a finals ticket against VNS-One Alicia on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
“We really studied their (Navy) game. After practice (last Friday), we talked about our strategy on how to beat them. I’m glad that our practice paid off in the game earlier. We executed well in blocking,” said Retamar in Filipino as NU had 12 blocks against Navy’s three.
The Nationals head coach Dante Alinsunurin credited his college players’ hard work that resulted in a good run in the Spikers’ Turf, where they won five of their six elimination matches before earning their first two wins in the semis round.
“I give it to my players. They really want to win. These young players have been really hard workers since the first day of our practice. Now, it’s paying off for them,” said Alinsunurin in Filipino.
Navy threatened to extend the match, erasing a 16-20 deficit with Joeven Dela Vega tying the set at 22-all. Retamar stopped the bleeding for NU, while Almendras pushed their team at matchpoint, 24-23, but Mukaba committed a service error that allowed a deuce.
Sealions captain Greg Dolor committed a crucial service error, 25-24, before Almendras nailed the match-clinching spike.
Navy dropped to 1-1 and will play a crucial game against Cignal on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., where the finals hopes of both teams hang in the balance.
Dela Vega led the Sealions with 15 points while Jau Umandal struggled with 10 points, making eight of his 24 spike attempts, but he had 21 receptions and 10 digs. Dolor also had a hard time with measly six points.