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SVL Campfire: Surviving Game 3 of the SVL Finals

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Tomorrow will surely be a treat to all volleyball fans with the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference coming down to one final game.

The Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles breezed through the competetion up to the Final Four. After a hiccup in Game Two of their best-of-three series against UST, the Ladies from Loyola buckled down to blast the Tigresses and take Game Three. They further inspired thoughts of them sweeping the Finals after demolishing the NU Lady Bulldogs in Game One. But the Ladies in Blue and Gold had other ideas, serving up a nasty reply in Game Two with their lives on the line.

Usually, I’d write a primer for such a big game; a survival kit of sorts on what to expect from both teams. But a lot more goes into literally surviving one of these games. With the biggest game of the season at hand, what better time to set expectations on the experience of going to the game itself.

This is for you, the out-of-towner who drove miles just to watch your idol for the first time; this is for you, the guy courting a volleyball fan who thought it would be a good idea to take girly to the big game.

This for you, the dead-beat dad who only has his daughter for the weekend and really wants to make it up to her by spending the day watching her favorite sport. Chances are, you’re in for a long day.

But, read the following and your stress levels shouldn’t go up too high.

Get there early!

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If you’re thinking about buying tickets at the venue tomorrow, you’re in my prayers.

Last week, there was already a huge line outside the FilOil Flying V Arena at 9 in the morning with the game slated to start at 12:45 in the afternoon. There were a bunch of people who wound up without tickets and had to wait outside the venue to catch a glimpse of their idol after the game. It didn’t help that the game coincided with a stacked UAAP Men’s Basketball lineup at the Araneta Coliseum, crowds still flocked San Juan. So, even with the big Ateneo-La Salle game on the same day, don’t expect the thousands of diehards to waiver.

This is already old hat, especially for Ateneo games at the Arena. During the UAAP season, game days at the San Juan Arena with both the Lady Eagles and the DLSU Lady Archers on the card usually get the same kind of turn out. Never will you see a more diverse crowd of housewives and high schoolers gathered to watch anything in this country. Only volleyball boasts that kind of draw.

So forget about going to morning mass. Get to the Arena as early as you can, bring an umbrella and an extra shirt and pray that you beat enough of the legion for a decent seat. Just visit the Lord’s house after the match.

Have a big breakfast

Unlike the Areneta Coliseum and MoA Arena, the San Juan Arena isn’t conveniently annexed to a mall so there are very few options for food. Of course, there will be Shakey’s pizza vendors roaming the venue, but, while delicious, the pizza isn’t exactly cheap.

There is a 7-11 across the street and three eateries scattered around P. Guevarra but those establishments tend to run out of stock quickly even with the anticipated high demand. Also, keep in mind that Arena security won’t let you bring food into the Arena.

Eat plentifully before trekking up San Juan and hydrate before entering the venue. With matters of the stomach, you’re always better off safe than sorry.

Optimal seating

SVL-Finals-ADMU-vs-NU-G1-Valdez-attack-1

If you’re lucky enough to get into the venue ahead of other people, you’ll have dibs on virtually any seat you want. Aside from the VIP seats on the floor, there are no reserved seats so you’re pretty much free to sit wherever.

What to do with such freedom? Sit near the aircons! You’ll be tempted to take the seats nearest the action, but it’s going to be a two-hour ordeal and the SJA tends to get smolderingly humid with the combined body temperatures and sweat of aforementioned diverse fans. You better find the seats nearest the air-conditioning units of the Arena or else!

For those ringside, there are no sources of cold air near your seats (you still have the best seats, deal with the heat). The best air vents are located beside the highest seats in the lower box area. In the nosebleeds, there are vents scattered above and behind the higest seats. Sitting in those high seats always lends the risk of sitting near a school drum line, but personally, I prefer not smelling If it happens to be an overcast day with momentary cold drizzles, then temperature might not be an issue.

If you’re an NU fan going to your first game, don’t let the massive amounts of Ateneo supporters bring you down. This always happens. Should the Lady Eagles ever play a volleyball game against LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Bimby Aquino-Yap, Alden and Yaya Dub, the combined forces of Alyfinity, Ellasanity, and (insert Ateneo player name here)-sanity would still outnumber the opposing sides supporters somehow. It’s like Ginebra’s Barangay only more united and generally less orenary probably due to their kangkong-less diet.

Going home

Sunday traffic is the manifestation of God’s mercy for most of us Pinoys after the hellish weekday hustle and bustle so getting to San Juan shouldn’t be an issue. It’s getting back home that’s going to be an issue.

As mentioned before, there aren’t really too many places to frolick around near the Arena after the game so people tend to head straight home or commute to somewhere else. Win or lose, it’s stress you choose as you’ll most likely be competing against those you cheered with for a ride out. No matter what event, this situation is what deters a lot of people from going to marquee games at San Juan. Unless you leave well before the game ends, you’ll be one of the thousands littered on the street outside, desperately waiting for a ride. If you aren’t too tired, you can always walk away from the crowd and wait elsewhere.

And parking also becomes a precious commodity. Unless you arrive really early, you’ll end up parking on an iffy spot or a place a brisk walk away from the venue. But don’t worry about the safety of your vehicle, criminals tend to do their work a good distance away from the nearest precinct and there are always cops around the venue.

So, what about the game though?


SVLST Survival kit

I’ve written it before in the primer for the series and everything pretty much transpired as predicted.

Gequillana x Bea de LeonAteneo walloped NU in Game One behind great games from MVP Alyssa Valdez and opposite hitter Kim Gequillana. NU not only had problems limiting their mistakes and miscues, they were also without Dindin Santiago-Manabat who was still in Vietnam at the time. With Manabat back for Game Two, NU played their hearts out, shoring up their floor defense and leaving the Lady Eagles dumbfounded. Veteran setter, Rubie De Leon explored her options masterfully while libero, Bia General had a career game, popping up even Alyssa Valdez’s unimpeded attacks.

The loss, really took a toll on the Lady Eagles after the match as has every loss they incurred in the past few tournaments. Ateneo whiplashed UST after they had lost previously and, given how hard Ateneo prepares after unsatisfactory performances, things don’t bode well for NU. Unsatisfied with her nine-point effort,look for Valdez to come back with a vengeance. The defending UAAP champs, for the first time in a long time, looked dazed, failing to make the plays or save the points that won them two UAAP titles. They’re primed to take their first SVL championship, but NU certainly won’t hand it to them.

The Lady Bulldogs had a performance reminiscent of their Game One win over the DLSU Lady Spikers in the Final Four of UAAP 77. The Sampaloc-based squad had everyone humming, blowing out their Taft counterparts in the process. Game Two didn’t go their way but they still drove La Salle to tilt.

NU vs. UB Dindin Santiago ManabatFaced with the same situation this time around, NU sits at an arguably, more favorable position. Their two guest players plug gaps that would be easy to exploit had they not been there. Many are quick to point out Ateneo’s big game and international-level experience but this NU roster may have more with Myla Pablo, Jaja Santiago, Manabat, and De Leon all participating in some of the most pressure-packed matches of the year. Factor in that two of Ateneo’s current starters didn’t get a lot of playing time in their championship runs and their struggles seem less improbable.

“Wala na kaming mga coaches jan, ‘yung mga player na ang mag-dedecide ng outcome nito,” a teary-eyed NU head coach Roger Gorayeb said last Sunday.

This game may very well come down to the intangibles – who slept better, who is less fatigued from the previous week, who feels more confident. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see who wants to win more in a match or to spot those crumbling under the pressure. Both teams have won titles before and neither seems willing to surrender this crown.

Remember, volleyball is a team sport. We tend to treat it like basketball, looking for the team’s best player to step up in the most heated moments. But there aren’t any fourth quarters or isolation plays in volleyball. Teams win with consistent and relentless team effort – receiving, setting, and attacking with destructive intent.

Expect the best game of the season tomorrow. There are no more favorites.

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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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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’

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Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence

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For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense

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Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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