San Beda forces decider for NCAA men’s volleyball title, ends Perpetual’s 32-game win streak
MANILA, Philippines—When San Beda needed a hero to help end Perpetual Help’s five-year-long winning streak, Ralph Cabalsa put on his Red cape and fueled the Red Spikers to a 17-25, 25-27, 25-22, 25-23, 15-11 victory in Game 2 NCAA Season 98 men’s volleyball finals at San Juan Arena on Friday.
Cabalsa scored 19 points in halting the Altas’ 32-game long winning stretch while also bringing the championship series to a 1-1 tie with a do-or-die affair set on Sunday at the same venue.
Despite Cabalsa’s heroics, coach Ariel Dela Cruz believes his start can still do so much more, especially in the decider.
“I think [Cabalsa] can give more and not just like this in this game. What he showed today is not yet his real game and it can level up. And told them–all of them–I already gave them all the trust because the potential is there,” Dela Cruz said.
In the fifth and final set, San Beda reached match point with a significant 14-10 lead against the defending champions, before Joshua Zareno denied the Red Lions’ celebration with a crosscourt to keep Perpetual alive, 14-11.
But Cabalsa, who tallied 18 successful spikes, left nothing to chance and wrapped the game up for San Beda with an off-the-block hit.
Cabalsa also served as a kryptonite to Season 98 MVP Louie Ramirez in the pivotal third frame, where the Red Lions managed to start turning things around.
With both squads tied at 20-all, Cabalsa and Ramirez would go nip-and-tuck in the offing to bring the score to 23-all before the MVP, who received his award earlier in the game, went down with cramps which spelled disaster for the reigning kings of the NCAA.
When asked if facing the league’s best player, who finished with a game-high 32 markers, was part of his motivation–the rookie made sure to answer swiftly.
“Of course, it was [a motivation], I’m the one the team depends on and I didn’t want to let them down, so I gave my best,” said Cabalsa in Filipino.
But it was Justine Santos and Kenrod Umali who put the finishing touches on the third set, 25-23, to start what would be a heroic comeback run to frustrate coach Sammy Acaylar’s wards. The duo finished with 12 and 19 points, respectively.
The Altas’ lengthy winning streak started in Season 93 back in 2018, when they won the men’s volleyball title against Arellano, 2-1.