Spikers’ Turf: NU-Sta. Elena inches closer to ending Cignal’s reign with Game 1 win
MANILA, Philippines — Michaelo Buddin and Nico Almendras pushed National University-Sta. Elena on the verge of ruling the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference with a 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18 win over defending champion Cignal in Game 1 of their best-of-three Finals series on Thursday at Paco Arena.
Buddin, NU’s incoming rookie, rose to the occasion with a team-high 22 points built on 17 attacks, three blocks, and a pair of aces along with 18 excellent receptions, while Almendras put on the finishing touches in the fourth set and finished with 20 points as the school-based Nationals moved on the cusp of ending the HD Spikers’ two-conference reign.
Almendras admitted his young team felt the pressure of facing a seasoned club team led by Marck Espejo. But he refused to be intimidated as he took charge and delivered in the crucial moments of the last two sets, stunning Cignal after two hours and four minutes.
“We felt the pressure because my teammates played for the first time at this level and we’re facing the No.1 club league in the country,” said Almendras in Filipino after providing a solid floor defense with 10 receptions and nine digs.
“We’re happy to win this game because our training is paying off. But we have to keep it up for us to win the gold.”
Buddin and Almendras may have delivered in scoring, but NU-Sta. Elena coach Dante Alinsunurin credited their big win to setter Joshua Retamar, who played through cramps in the third set but still finished with 26 excellent sets on top of five points.
“Our team moved well and followed the team system. But of course, it was Owa’s (Retamar) distribution that allowed my players to kill their attacks,” said Alinsunurin in Filipino. “He (Retamar) has been a problem (on his leg) since yesterday. But I can’t tell what happened. I just trust my young player because he won’t easily give up and will continue fighting as much as he can. I really admire his determination whatever the situation. We recovered from the game because he wanted to win it for us.”
Obed Mukaba was also instrumental with 11 points, providing five of the team’s 14 blocks, while Kennry Malinis chipped in nine markers, including the set-clinching attack in the third set.
NU-Sta. Elena tries to get the job done against Cignal in Game 2 on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Louie Ramirez led the HD Spikers with 14 points, while Espejo had 13 points with an 11-of-25 spiking clip, but had 22 receptions and six digs. Ysay Marasigan also scored 13, while JP Bugaoan added 12 as they fell to the brink of getting dethroned.
Meanwhile, Joeven Dela Vega unloaded 14 points as PGJC-Navy dominated VNS-One Alicia, 25-20, 25-19, 25-21, to move a win closer to the bronze medal.
The Sealions try to claim third place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. before the presentation of individual awards.
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