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Bulldogs end two-game slide at Tiger Spikers’ expense

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After suffering shocking defeats to fellow UAAP squads, the National University Bulldogs got back on their feet with a four-set triumph over the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Spikers, 25-21, 17-25, 27-25, 25-23, in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

According to National U head coach Dante Alinsunurin, their past rough patch of games served as a wake-up call for his squad. The runners-up of the past two Collegiate Conferences, the Bulldogs, are looking to finally win a championship.

“Sobrang baba talaga nang nilalaro namin nitong mga nakaraan na linggo. Alam naman nila ‘yun kaya talagang pinipilit namin i-angat ang mga laro namin,” said Alinsunurin, who refused to.make excuses for his team’s poor play. “May goal kami as a team na hindi namin maaabot kung ganito ang ilalaro namin.”

Open hitters Fauzi Ismail and Bryan Bagunas led NU’s offense, scoring 21 and 15 points, respectively. They also provided the crucial points that closed out tight third and fourth sets. National U got the best of UST in each scoring skill, but kept the match close with their whooping 40 errors.

National U now hold a 2-2 record and climbed back up to the fourth seed.

Arnold Bautista and Manuel Medina led the Tiger Spikers with 12 points apiece. UST slid down the standings and out of the semis picture with a 2-3 slate.

The Scores

NU (3) – Ismail 21, Bagunas 15, Natividad 14, Malabunga 12, Saura 9, Dayandante 1, Ancheta 0, Gampong 0, Marcos (L)

UST (1) – Bautista 12, Medina 12, Umandal 11, Sumagaysay 8, Buro 5, Carodan 5, Tajanlangit 1, Casillan 0, Valenzuela 0, Sawal (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball – from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado’s setting.

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Finals MVP again, Cha Cruz thankful for team’s trust

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Photo by Noel Tonido

It was nearly six years since Cha Cruz last won a Finals Most Valuable Player plum and she showed the younger generation of fans exactly how she developed her clutch reputation.

Cruz, after languishing on the bench for much of the 2017 Chooks-to-Go Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, gamely hopped off the bench in Game Two of the Finals. With her squad down 0-9 in a pivotal fourth set, Cruz served, defended, and scored like it was UAAP Season 73.

F2 Logistics ended up winning that match on five frames and forced a Game Three for all the marbles. History was not on the Cargo Movers’ side, but, luckily for them, Cruz has been historically great in the biggest stages of local volleyball.

The 29-year-old pounded in a season-high 16 points to lead the Cargo Movers past the Petron Blaze Spikers in the deciding match.

For her inspiring outings, she won the Finals MVP, her third such award.

“Mindset namin was kailangan lahat kami gagana, lahat kami magbibigay ng best,” said Cruz about her motivation.

“I was really happy na lahat talaga kami showed our best. Noong tinitignan ko yung mga teammates ko sa mata, there was fire na we really want this game. When you see that, you just wanna give best your best, too,” the 5-foot-8 spiker furthered. “Coming from Game Two na nakuha namin in a very hard way, it’s also a sign for me na God is giving us am opportunity na sa amin ‘yung Game Three. Hindi naman namin mao-overcome ‘yun ng wala lang.

“Worth it lahat, kukinin namin ‘to.”

If anything, Cruz was happy that her longtime coach Ramil De Jesus still trusts her after all these years.

“I’m so happy and nakaka-proud.

“I believe in God’s perfect timing kasi ngayon nakalaro ako and I was able to contribute para makuha namin ‘yung goal namin. I’m just very happy na all my coaches and my teammates really trust me,” the La Salle great expressed.

Ramil De Jesus summed up Cruz’s performance perfectly.

“Ganyan naman ‘yan si Cha,” quipped the multi-time champion coach. “Kahit anong ibigay mo sa kanyang role, gagawin niya without hesitation. Laging ready ‘yan.

“Wala na ‘rin sigurong nagulat sa mga ginawa niya ngayong Finals.”

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Grieving MJ Perez shows ultimate display of professionalism

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Photo by Noel Tonido

“Kung ibang tao ‘yun… I can’t even imagine. I don’t want to imagine. Magbe-breakdown ka talaga ‘nun,” lamented F2 Logistics’ Cha Cruz.

Cruz, the team captain of F2 Logistics, was the only Cargo Mover to find out that Maria Jose Perez, their high-scoring import, just lost her brother, Daniel, to cancer a day before Game Three of the Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix Finals.

The Venezuelan did not want any of her teammates to know. She definitely did not let grief way her down, still managing to lead F2 Logistics to the 2017 Chooks-to-Go PSL Grand Prix championship. The 2008 Beijing Olympian powered in 24 points in the deciding Game Three.

Each and every point, every swing she dedicated to her brother.

“It was really hard for me, but I wanted to play for my team,” Perez, who was fighting off tears, told Tiebreaker Times.

“I wanted to play for my teammates and I also know that my brother would have wanted me to play, as well.”

F2 Logistics head coach Ramil De Jesus gushed about Perez’s fortitude.

“Sobrang hirap noon. Napaka-professional niya. Saludo ako sa kanya,” said the decorated mentor.

“Kakaibang lungkot ‘yun. Sobrang bigat noon, pero di mo makikita sa kung paano siya naglaro kanina.”

Instead of celebrating, the 2017 PSL Grand Prix Most Valuable Player’s mind eventually went to her family. She plans on flying back to Utah and meeting her family before going to Venezuela.

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Ramil de Jesus finally notches elusive Grand Prix title

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Locally, few coaches can boast the same success as Ramil De Jesus

In 19 years as head coach of the De La Salle University Lady Spikers, De Jesus led the program to 10 titles and 17 Finals appearances. He’s coached the National Team and groomed several players who went on to become legends of the sport.

Admittedly, things did not come as easy for De Jesus in the club ranks, specificallly in the Philippine Superliga.

De Jesus has been involved with the league since its inception in 2013 and started off juggling several sponsors. It wasn’t until he landed the backing of F2 Logistics in 2016 that he gained consistent success.

Last August 2016, De Jesus broke his PSL curse after claiming the 2016 All-Filipino Cup. A year and four months later, the decorated mentor finally plucked the Chooks-to-Go Grand Prix championship in an epic three-game series with Petron.

In some ways, it was vindication for the Cargo Movers after losing the 2017 AFC title to the Blaze Spikers.

“Alam naman natin na malakas na team talaga ang Petron. Pareho kami na may mga locals na handa mag-contribute kaya sobrang saya namin na kahit papaano, naka-isa na kami sa kanila,” De Jesus reflected.

It was roller coaster Grand Prix for F2 Logistics. De Jesus remembered how he did not get his first picks for imports but also how they started training late.

“Hindi talaga namin in-expect na ganito sila kagaling,” said De Jesus of Kennedy Bryan and Maria Jose Perez.

“Sobrang coachable nila and magaling makisama sa team kaya madali kaming naka-adapt aa kanila.”

After finally winning the Grand Prix, De Jesus immidiately sets his eyes on the UAAP Season 81, which begins on February.

Indeed, there is no rest for wickedly talented.

“Sunod-sunod, pero ganoon talaga. Buti na lang sabay kong napapa-training ‘yung mga teams ko.”

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Iain Ramsay hattrick powers Ceres-Negros to inaugural PFL title

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Photo from Stephen Tan/Ceres Media

Ultimately, there was no other local club that deserved to be crowned the 2017 Philippines Football League champions than Ceres Negros Football Club.

Months after being crowned as the best ASEAN team in the 2017 AFC Cup, Ceres seized the 2017 PFL title with a 4-1 victory over Visayas rivals Global Cebu at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.

Ceres’ championship was as good as sealed right from the get go as the Busmen commanded a 3-0 lead at halftime. Iain Ramsay was a force to be reckoned with as he had a hand in all three Negros goals.

Ramsay spotted an expectant Bienvenido Marañon in the Global box and the latter calmly put the ball past opposing goalie Patrick Deyto to give Ceres a 1-0 lead after just four minutes.

Global tried to retaliate soon enough should have scored at least once when Rufo Sanchez was denied by the crossbar and Pika Minegishi’s free kick was saved by Ceres goalie Roland Muller.

Global’s failure to put the ball at the back of the net cost them dearly. A swift counterattack allowed Ramsay to get his first goal at the 20th minute and the Filipino-Australian made good use of a Junior Muñoz pass to triple Ceres’ lead seven minutes later.

The title was already a formality for Ceres at halftime. Risto Vidakovic and his men were 45 minutes away from sweet redemption as they failed to win the 2016 United Football League and 2016 UFL Cup which were both won by Global.

Ceres’ icing on the cake occurred at the 61st minute when Ramsay got his hattrick goal following another clever play by the Busmen. With the result done and dusted, Global got themselves a consolation goal two minutes from time thanks to Darryl Roberts.

Come the final whistle, Ceres proved to be worthy 4-1 victors over a defensively-suspect Global to be the first PFL winners.

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