Cignal and National University-Sta. Elena slug it out for the second time in three days but in a far more vital setting while Navy and VNS-One Alicia collide in a pair of explosive matches kicking off the semifinal round of the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference today at the Paco Arena.
Game time is set at 5:30 p.m. while the Navy Sealions are also all set to re-assert their mastery of the VNS Griffins in their 2:30 p.m. encounter.
The HD Spikers swept the Nationals, 25-22, 25-22, 25-22, at the close of the eliminations last Tuesday in a match that staked nothing but the seeding, although their victory over their erstwhile unbeaten rivals served as a big morale-boost to their finals drive in a round robin semis tipped to be tight and fierce.
“It’s non-bearing but it’s a big psychological win. We gained a mental edge since we already beat them,” said Cignal main man Marck Espejo, who spiked his top-scoring 17-point effort with 19 excellent receptions and five excellent digs to earn the best player honors.
But the Japan league veteran insisted that the HD Spikers still have a lot of adjusting to do as they brace for a big bounce-back from the top University Athletic Association of the Philippines squad.
“We’re not going to relax,” added Espejo, referring to their performance in the third set which they dominated in the early going only to slow down midway through, enabling the Nationals to mount a rally.
As in the first two sets, however, the HD Spikers proved steadier in the end to emerge No. 2 behind Navy at the close of eliminations play with Sta. Elena settling for No. 3. All three finished with 5-1 slates.
Cignal coach Dexter Clamor cited his wards’ cohesion and the intangibles that the rest of the team had chipped in throughout the match but remained wary of their rematch with the Nationals.
“While the boys’ morale is high, we still have to study our lapses and the strength of the Nationals. Sure, they will make the necessary adjustments, so we need to be ready,” Clamor said.
Meanwhile, the Sealions are enjoying the momentum of a four-game streak, including a four-set victory over the Griffins last Saturday.
Jao Umandal, Greg Dolor, Jemmy Entig, Peter Quiel and playmaker EJ Casana are raring to get going again but could face a tougher challenge this time from the likes of Ben San Andres, Kim Malabunga, Kevin Montemayor, Uriel Mendoza and setter Ish Polvorosa and Joshua Cruz.