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Cignal forges title showdown vs NU-Sta. Elena

Defending champion Cignal pummeled PGJC-Navy into submission,  25-22, 25-21  25-20, Tuesday to punch the last ticket to the Finals of the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference at the Paco Arena in Manila.

Marck Espejo showed no signs of the heel injury that has bothered him in the previous two games of the round-robin semifinals to ignite the red-hot outing of the HD Spikers for the blowout win that set up a best-of-three title showdown against streaking National University-Sta. Elena.

Cignal closed the semis with a 2-1 win-loss record and exacted painful revenge over its elimination round tormentor.

Game 1 of the Finals is scheduled Thursday.

Espejo posted 16 points and laced his all-around performance with 21 excellent receptions and seven digs while Ysay Marasigan added 14 markers for the HD Spikers. The duo combined for 22 of Cignal’s 39 kills.

JP Bugaoan had 10 points for the HD Spikers, who shackled the main gunners of the Sealions to just single-digit scoring.

Meanwhile, NU-Sta. Elena built momentum heading to the championship round with a 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 27-25, victory over VNS One-Alicia to complete a clean sweep of the semis.

Nico Almendras fired 26 points built on 23 attacks, two kill blocks and an ace while Congolese Obed Mukada added 14 markers including 12 off spikes for NU-Sta. Elena, which reasserted its mastery over their elimination round victim.

“This win gave us momentum heading into the Finals. We really need this for our confidence,” said Almendras, who displayed an all-around game with five digs and 11 excellent receptions.

The Nationals had some scary moments in the fourth set after Ish Polvorosa pushed the Griffins at set point, 24-23, off an ace. Almendras saved a set point only for Nationals’ setter Owa Retamar to commit a service error in the next play.

VNS squandered their chance to extend the set after committing three straight miscues with Benedict San Andres sending his serve short, Kevin Montemayor putting too much power on his attack followed by a reception error that ended the one-hour, 52-minute match.

Michaelo Buddin finished with 13 points while Retamar tallied 28 excellent sets for Nationals, who exploited the absence of VNS frontliner Kim Malabunga to unleash 58 attack points.

The Griffins, who went winless in the semis, will take on the Sealions in the battle.

Montemayor led VNS with 13 points, San Andres and Michael Doria had 12 markers each while Uriel Mendoza registered 11 points for VNS.

Joeven Dela Vega and Greg Dolor scored nine points while league-leading scorer Jau Umandal was silenced to only five points in two sets of action for Navy, which sealed its semis campaign with a 1-2 slate.

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