It was not pretty but the Philippine Army Troopers managed to survive five grueling sets against the IEM Phoenix Volley Masters, 25-23, 24-26, 25-21, 21-25, 15-11, Sunday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Unlike the other teams that have either completed their elimination round campaign or have played six games already, the Troopers still have two games left in their slate as they now sport a 2-3 record. IEM meanwhile are in danger of dropping out of the Final Four race with a 2-4 record.
This is Army’s first win since stunning archrivals Philippine Air Force last July 9.
“Kulang kami sa panalo pero wala kaming magagawa kasi kulang kami sa training,” said Sgt. Rico de Guzman. “Pero lagi ko na lang sinasabi na kahit ganun, ibigay natin yung best natin sa bawat laro.”
Romnick Rico paced Army with 19 points, 17 coming off attacks and two kill blocks. Skipper Benjaylo Labide and Manuel Medina added 15 and 13 points respectively. However, much of Army’s 36 errors helped IEM especially in the fourth set that extended the match to a fifth frame.
“Nung first four sets, hirap kami sa first ball namin. Sumasabay lang kami sa kabila kaya nahirapan kami sa blockers nila,” De Guzman shared as Ferdan Guanzon and Mark Enciso tallied seven of IEM’s 10 blocks.
Army raced to an early 4-0 lead in the decider. However, errors by Army and kills by Enciso chipped into the Troopers’ lead, cutting the lead to just a solitary point, 10-11.
A service error by Enciso followed by a setting error by Refugia Manolo led to a Medina kil that gave Army a three-point edge. Michael Conde was able to get one back but Army was not to be denied as a down-the-line attack by Antonio Torres and an attack error by Kurl Rosete ended the contest.
UST setter Tim Tajanlangit glued things together for Army with 30 excellent sets.
Army will continue its race to the semis when it takes on Cafe Lupe on Wednesday, July 25 at 1:00pm.
“Minomotivate ko yung mga players namin na gawin ang lahat para maipanalo yung last two games namin. Patay kami sa standings pag hindi namin maipanalo lahat dahil hawak ng Sta. Elena yung advantage,” De Guzman said.
San Beda standout Enciso finished with a game-high 26 points while blocker Ferdan Guanzon added 14 points.
IEM takes on the Cignal HD Spikers on Sunday, July 30 at 10:00. The game is a virtual do-or-die for the Volley Masters.
Army (3) – Rico 19, Labide 15, Medina 13, Torres 11, Bautista 5, Sumagaysay 4, Carodan 3, Barrica 3, Depamaylo 1, Tajanlangit 0, Reyes 0, Bayking (L), Uy (L).
IEM (2) – Enciso 26, Guanzon 14, Rosete 13, Conde 10, Canlas 8, Gatdula 5, Refugia 3, Melgar 1, Villegas 0, Sarcena 0, Chumbingco 0, Longavela (L)