With two of their rotation players down with the flu, Wendel Miguel and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons were able to find their second wind just in time to outlast the College of Saint Benilde Blazers in five sets, 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 16-14, Monday morning at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
It was a grueling affair, as the match lasted for an hour and 58 minutes. The Fighting Maroons were additionally handicapped by the absence of middle blockers Gian San Pascual and John Castillo, while Mac Millete was not fielded in because of the new system coach Rod Palmero was testing for the game.
“Yung play namin kanina, super fast play talaga kaya hindi muna ginamit si Mac,” shared super senior Miguel.
Stepping up for Millete was Nicolo Consuelo, who tallied 19 points on 15 attacks, three blocks, and two aces. Skipper Jerry San Pedero added 16 markers.
But when the Fighting Maroons were down against the defending NCAA champions, the team went to Miguel.
“Parang ang nangyari nun, bumaliktad yung momentum. Sobrang ganda ng start ng Benilde. Sinabi na lang sa amin ni coach na simplehan lang namin,” said Miguel, who tallied 22 points on 20 spikes, an ace, and a block.
UP were down by as much as 5-9 during the deciding set, but Miguel rallied UP back to tie things up at 11-all. A kill and an ace by Isaah Arda tried to stop the Fighting Maroon rally, but three straight points from Miguel sent UP to match point. However, Arda was able to answer right back to force a deuce.
But UP were not to be denied, as an off-the-block kill by Consuelo was followed up by a smooth drop by San Pedro to secure the bounce-back win.
“Inenjoy lang namin yung laro. Puro bata yung team namin ngayon pero alam ko kaya pa nilang higitan yung laro nila. Nakikita ko na dedicated sila sa laro nila,” added Miguel.
Fourth-year setter Charles Acuna glued things together for UP with 41 excellent sets and 10 digs.
Arda paced Benilde with 22 points while Owen Bacani added 14 markers.
UP will have a one week break before facing the San Beda Red Lions on Monday, September 11, at 8:00am. Saint Benilde, at 0-2, will have a lot of time to regroup as they will return to the court on Wednesday, September 13, against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
UP (3) – Miguel 22, Consuelo 19, San Pedro 16, Gohoc 10, Ijiran 6, Acuna 0, Madrigalejos (L), Nasol (L).
CSB (2) – Arda 22, Bacani 14, Basilan 12, Orian 12, Bautista 7, Abrot 5, Magsino 1, Saldavia 1, San Miguel 0, De Sequera 0, Garcia (L), Dy (L).