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Cignal keeps semis hopes alive

Cignal flirted with disaster before booking a scary 25-14, 25-11, 19-25, 17-25, 15-11 win over Choco Mucho in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference on Thursday at the Philsports Arena.

Grizzled veteran Rachel Anne Daquis stood tall while Francs Molina, Glaudine Troncoso, Roselyn Doria stepped up in the crucial stretch of the decider to help the HD Spikers collect their second win in this professional club league.

Daquis, a former national team skipper, fired 14 kills and three blocks to finish with 17 points while Molina had 15 of her 17 points off attacks to fuel the HD Spikers’ sizzling assault in the fifth set.

Troncoso and Doria added 15 markers apiece as Cignal regains their winning form to stay in the hunt for the last semifinal berth.

The HD Spikers are at seventh place but they can still turn their fortunes around should they sweep their last two matches against PLDT on 11 March and Army on 16 March.

Choco Mucho, meanwhile, slipped to 2-3 at sixth but the two struggling teams stood just behind fourth-running Chery Tiggo (3-2) and No. 5 Petro Gazz (2-2), which is playing with F2 Logistics (4-1) at press time.

“We always remind the team that we want it more. That’s why we really worked hard as a team and combined all our talent and effort because we really want to make a return,” said Daquis, who proved clutch for the nth time in a checkered career, ramming a down-the-line hit that halted the Flying Titans’ rally and put the team at match point, 14-11.

The Flying Titans then cracked under pressure, failing to set up a clear attack that led to Daquis’ dink that wrapped up the near-two-hour encounter that featured a couple of long, fierce exchanges in the fifth.

The last led to a Chery Nunag putaway that pulled Choco Mucho back to within two, 11-13. But HD Spikers kept their nerves in check with Daquis taking over to deliver the clutch points.

It was a sorry loss for Choco Mucho, which battled back from two lopsided set losses with big victories in the next two frames.

But they wavered midway in the fifth after Des Cheng scored on an off-the-block hit that ended a long rally of attacks and digs and put the Flying Titans within, 5-6.

But Molina fired a through-the-block hit and after a Jerilli Malabanan service miscue, the HD Spikers racked up three straight points off a kill block, an easy hit off a mis-receive and another Molina kill for a 10-6 count.

“We’re very thankful to the Lord for all the challenges He had given us,” Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos.

“We know that the battle will not be easy because we know what Choco Mucho is capable of doing. It’s good that we were able to maintain our good attitude.”

Isa Molde and Kat Tolentino shared scoring honors for Choco Mucho with 17 points apiece while Cheng added 14 markers and Maika Ortiz chipped on seven points, mostly on running plays.

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