Cignal faces a familiar and formidable foe while two of National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top squads collide in a fitting start to what promises to be a slam-bang semifinal round of the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference today at the Paco Arena in Manila.
The HD Spikers step up their drive for a sweep of the season’s two titles, mixing it up with the Sta. Elena Nationals in the 3:30 p.m. duel of power, style and class, kicking off the five-playdate round robin semis that will also feature Japanese guest team Maruichi Hyogo.
Cignal, which swept the Pool C elimination and rolled to the semis with a sweep of La Salle-EcoOil in the knockout quarters, hopes to draw the best from its loaded roster led by Jau Umandal and JP Bugaoan while Nationals, the Pool A topnotchers who leaned on Leo Ordiales and Obed Mukaba to hold off the PGJC-Navy Sealions in a tight four-set encounter, both last Sunday.
Despite their romp over the Green Oilers, Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor emphasized the need for his wards to elevate their performance for the challenging semifinals of the season-ending conference.
“Going to the semifinals we are happy but, of course, we are not contented with our previous performance. We have to play better in the semifinals. We’ll prepare more and play it one game at a time,” Clamor said.
Counterpart Dante Alinsunurin, on the other hand, wants the Nationals to maintain their level of play and recover from their grueling knockout encounter with the Sealions last Sunday.
“We have to continue what we’re doing,” Alinsunurin said.
“I think we just need to rest and scout the Japanese team and other teams that we will face in the semifinals.”
Meanwhile, the Altas, also coming off a dominant win over the FEU-Chef on a Diet Tamaraws in the quarterfinals, seek to get past the Saints Spikers, the surprise package of the conference after snatching the second berth in Pool C next to the HD Spikers then disposing of Pool B topnotchers Cabuyao-Cabstars in the quarters.
Perpetual will again rely on the hard-hitting Louie Ramirez, Jefferson Marapoc and Michael Medalla while Letran will be led by Bem-Bem Bautista while hoping for the return of star middle blocker Vince Himzon, who suffered an ankle sprain after scoring 13 points in the first two sets against the Cabstars.