Pushed to the limit
Pushed to another 0-2 deficit, the Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers leaned heavily on their trio of National University Bulldogs to finally slat the Philippine Army Troopers in Game Three of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference semifinals, 24-26, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-9, Thursday morning at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Pushed to the brink again by a less-equipped Army side, the Jet Spikers lacked intensity in the first two sets according to Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo.
“Medyo relaxed kami noong simula. Kaya noong lumamang kami, nakahabol pa kasi kita talaga na gusto manalo noong Army. Maganda talaga ginalaw ng kalaban. Kinailangan namin tapatan sila,” said Verayo.
By the third set, the Jet Spikers had regained the dominant form that saw them sweep their last four elimination round matches. With open hitters Bryan Bagunas and Fauzi Ismail fueling their offense, Air Force raced to an 11-6 lead in the third set then carried a 17-13 lead to a fourth frame win.
In the decider, the Jet Spikers made the most of their crucial transitions and pulled big blocks from their much taller front-line to create a decisive 11-7 advantage and run to the Finals.
“Sana mas consistent ang laruin namin sa Finals. Kung sinuman ang makalaban namin doon, magiging challenge para sa amin,” added Verayo.
Bagunas led the way with 26 points, Ismail added 18. Their National University teammate Kim Malabunga managed 12 markers to key Air Force’s win.
The Jet Spikers earn their fourth straight PVL Finals appearance and are gunning for their third straight title. The Finals begin on Saturday, where Air Force will face the winner of the Cignal-Sta. Elena tiff.
UAAP Beach Volleyball champion Anthony Arbasto led the Troopers with 19 points, while former University of Santo Tomas Tiger Spiker Romnick Rico provied 16.
Air Force (3) – Bagunas 25, Ismail 18, Malabunga 12, Abdilla 9, Malabanan 9, Tolentino 2, De Ocampo 1, Lopez 1, Chavez (L)
Army (2) – Arbasto 19, Rico 16, Labide 13, Sumagaysay 8, Torres 8, Tajanlangit 5, Depamaylo 2, Abdulmajid 1, Delos Reyes 1, Uy (L)