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Saint Benilde sinks Navy, makes semis

GRACEFUL EXIT. Philippine Army's Edward Camposano (No. 13) scores against Philippine Air Force defenders Ralph Christian Calasin (No. 1) and James Buytrago (No. 24) at the close of the preliminary round of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night (Feb. 14, 2024). Army won, 25-19, 25-14, 19-25, 25-14 for a graceful exit in the tournament. (PNVF photo)

College of Saint Benilde caught the last bus to the playoffs with a big win against PGJC Philippine Navy at the close of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation Champions League eliminations late Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

The Blazers had to dig deep though in scoring a 26-24, 25-22, 14-25, 25-22 win to join Cignal HD, Iloilo D’Navigators and VNS Asereht in the semifinals.

Saint Benilde lost to Cignal HD in the opener but bagged two crucial wins in a row to finish No. 2 in Pool A with a 2-1 won-lost record and dodge complications of making the next round with Savouge (1-2) and Navy (0-3).

“This was big for us as it dictated our playoff fate,” said Saint Benilde coach Arnold Laniog, whose wards avoided a three-way tie at 1-2 with also-ran Savouge and Navy.

Jacob Herrera and Mike Balbacal fired 12 points each while James Marasigan chipped in 11 to lead the Blazers’ march to the playoffs.

Saint Benilde will face unbeaten Pool B leader Iloilo while Pool A topnotcher Cignal HD and VNS will duke it out in the other semifinals pairing.

The Blazers vowed to give the D’Navigators a run for their money despite being a heavy underdog against the seasoned pro club for a shot at the crown.

“We joined the PNVF for exposure and experience,” Laniog said.

“It’s a reward to be in the semifinals. Iloilo is tough and undefeated with a bevy of veterans but there’s no pressure on us and everything to gain.”

Cignal HD completed a sweep of Pool A with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-22 win over Savouge behind Joshua Umandal’s 11 points on nine hits and two aces.

All HD Spikers contributed offensively against the Spin Doctors in the 92-minute match.

“It’s one goal at a time — advance to the playoffs,” said coach Dexter Clamor whose HD Spikers are campaigning for redemption after losing their throne to the University of Santo Tomas Tigers last edition.

In another Pool B match, Army subdued Air Force in a battle of eliminated squads in Pool B, 25-19, 25-14, 19-25, 25-14, for a graceful exit.

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