2:30 p.m. — PGJC-Navy vs VNS
5:30 p.m. — NU-Sta. Elena vs Cignal
National University-Sta. Elena unleashed a telling scoring barrage in the closing stretch of the fourth set to zap out the fight in defending champion Cignal, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18, and take Game 1 of the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference Finals series Thursday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
Down three points early in the fourth frame, the Nationals ignited an 8-1 rally to turn the tide around before repelling the HD Spikers’ desperate fightback with another blitz to inch closer to the crown.
Michaelo Buddin and Nico Almendras were at the forefront of NU-Sta. Elena’s assault as the powerhitting duo combined for 34 of the Dante Alinsunurin-mentored squad’s 54 attack points.
Buddin finished with a game-high 22 points and 18 excellent receptions while Almendras, who fueled the Nationals’ finishing kick, added 20 markers, 10 receptions and nine digs.
NU-Sta. Elena can snatch the crown on Saturday.
“We’re happy we took Game 1 but the series is far from over. We still need to win on Saturday to claim the Spikers’ Turf title,” Alinsunurin said.
Congolese Obed Mukaba was a monster in front of the net as he registered five kill blocks in his 11 points while Owa Retamar shrugged off muscle cramps late in the final set to tally 26 excellent sets on top of his five markers for the Nationals.
NU-Sta. Elena came back from an 8-11 deficit in the fourth set to take a 16-12 advantage. Cignal behind Marck Espejo tried to draw closer, 16-19, only to see the Nationals counter with a closing 6-2 salvo.
Louie Ramirez led the HD Spikers with 14 points while Espejo, who was limited to only one point in the opening set, and Ysay Marasigan had 13 markers each.
Meanwhile, PGJC-Navy drew first blood in the battle for third after crushing VNS One-Alicia, 25-20, 25-19, 25-21.
Joeven Dela Vega delivered 10 kills in his 14-point outing and added seven digs while team captain Greg Dolor scored eight points hinged on seven spikes for the Sealions.
Jau Umandal added seven markers for Navy while Jemmy Entig posted five points despite playing only in the third set.
No VNS player reached double-digit scoring with San Andres putting up nine quiet points. Uriel Mendoza and Alfredo Pagulong combined for 15 markers for the Griffins, who gave away 25 points off errors.
The Sealions get a chance to seal the series on Saturday. In case the series is tied and the Finals showdown between Cignal and National University-Sta. Elena ends in two games the team with the better winning quotient will pocket bronze.