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Late rally lifts NU; Navy sinks Ateneo

National University-Sta. Elena bucked a slow start to dismantle Army-Katinko Oil, 20-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-12, in the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference Thursday at the Paco Arena.

The Nationals had a sluggish first set before going on a rampage in the fourth, opening a 16-6 advantage on the way to a 25-12 tally for the win.

“This is a new team,” said Nationals coach Dante Alinsunurin, whose wards joined Cignal and VNS as early leaders with a 1-0 win-loss card.

Although they know that we came from an international competition, the level of competition in the country is still different.”

Meanwhile, Navy had a strong debut after sweeping Ateneo de Manila University-Fudgee Barr, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19, behind national team mainstay Joshua Umandal.

Umandal smashed 12 attacks in his 13-point outing while Peter Quiel and Joeven Dela Vega scored 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Sealions, who handed the Blue Eagles their second straight loss in as many games.

Ahead by three, the Troopers finished off the first frame with a 3-1 spurt, capped by Benjaylo Labide’s kill for the early lead but NU-Sta. Elena responded swiftly in the ensuing salvo for the equalizer, 25-20.

Solid net defense of the Nationals combined with Army-Katinko Oil’s errors highlighted the former’s 7-1 closing blast in the third period to take the lead, 25-16.

Nico Almendras led NU-Sta. Elena with 18 points built on 15 attacks, two aces, a block, and 12 excellent receptions.

“We had a lot of errors during the first set, especially from the service box. That’s why we adjusted in the second set and we managed to reduce our unforced errors,” Almendras said.

Obed Mukaba, a 6-foot-6 middle blocker from Congo, dominated the net and out-blocked the Troopers by himself, 6-5, while finishing with 13 points.

Kennry Malinis added 12 points while Michaelo Buddin got eight points in just two sets of play.

PJ Rojas topscored for Army-Katinko Oil with 11, while John Diwa chipped in 10.

Rey Taneo tallied 26 excellent sets along with four points and five digs as well.

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