Philippine Air Force (PAF) Air Spikers shook off a rusty start to gain victory over Instituto Estetico Manila (IEM) Volleymasters in four sets, 25-20, 25-19, 16-25, and 25-16 in the Spikers’ Turf Season One Open Conference, this morning at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan
The match had a slow start, as both teams committed errors that kept their scores close. The PAF Air Spikers, however, heated up quickly through their attacks midway into the set to pull away; 16-8, their biggest lead of the set. Unfortunately for the Air Spikers, The EIM Volleymasters regained their bearings heading into the latter part of the set, 23-18, behind Jeffrey Jimenez’s quick hit. Furthermore, after a Ruben Inaudito attack off a combination play that sent PAF to set point, 24-18, IEM nailed two straight hits to spark a run, 24-20. Despite their efforts, the Air Spikers had the last laugh when IEM’s Michael Conde failed to launch his service over the net, giving PAF the first set 25-20.
IEM started the second set with erroneous attacks, granting PAF the advantage to seize the early lead, 8-4. However, IEM managed to keep the set close midway, 16-13, as they improved their net defense to bar attacks by the opposing team. PAF then managed to pull away and score within five in closing the set, 20-15, as a result of IEM’s countless attack errors. The Volleymasters’ miscues in the offensive end cost them the set, as Jimenez’ service error let PAF walk away with a 2-0 advantage, 25-19.
The Air Spikers looked to close the match in three sets, but IEM decided to turn things around to deflect any chances of a sweep. The Volleymasters waxed hot early as they quickly posted an 11-3 lead behind the spark of Jophius Banang and Kirk Beliran. PAF, however, adjusted to inch within striking distance, 16-10, to make the set more respectable. Nevertheless, IEM could not be stopped when they provided answers for every attack Air Force gives. The Volleymasters scored three straight attacks capped by a service ace from Banang to own the third set, 25-16, forcing the match to go to a fourth set.
The Volleymasters picked up where they left off from the previous set, as they led the Air Spikers 8-4 early in the fourth set. But after a call by the referee that did not favor their side, IEM saw themselves being outclassed by a veteran team in Air Force, as the latter rose back from the deficit, and unfurled a 9-1 scoring spree to regain the lead, 14-9. From then on, the Air Spikers never looked back; their pesky quick attacks from Jeffrey Malabanan had proven to be too much for IEM to handle. PAF made easy work of the Volleymasters in the set, 25-16, ending the match at four sets.
After the game, we had the opportunity to speak with the Philippine Air Force head coach SSG. Rhovyl Verayo about the team’s performance against IEM. “Nung makalamang ng two sets, nag-relax sila. Alam naman natin na maganda ang floor defense ng IEM, dati pa yan sa PSL pa lang. Nawala pa receive namin,” the staff sergeant for the Philippine Air Force told us. “Kaya nung interval nung third set papuntang fourth set, sinabi ko sa kanila magfocus sa receive.”
When asked about the goals of the Air Spikers for this tournament, Coach Verayo told us that the short term goal is to get to the Top 4. “Ang next game namin is against Army, so kapag nanalo kami dun malapit na namin makamit ang unang goal namin na maka-Top 4.”
Finally, we also had a chance to speak with National University Men’s Volleyball team head coach and Philippine Air Force team member Dante Alinsunurin after the game. Alinsunurin did not play in this game because he was experiencing some knee soreness. In his place, Jeffrey Malabanan stepped up for the team. Coach Alinsunurin told us that Malabanan needed to step up in times like these. “Si Jeff, alam naman niya na siya ang aasahan ng team. Maganda ang blocking niya buong game at malaking bagay yun para sa amin.” Coach Alinsunurin told us that he will definitely play on Tuesday, April 28 against Army.
Malabanan led the Air Spikers’ assault with 14 points, 11 of which coming from spikes. Edwin Tolentino chipped in 12, while Inaudito added 10. Jimenez had 16 points for IEM in a losing effort.
With the win, PAF improved to 3-1. Their next assignment will be PLDT Home Ultera on Tuesday, April 28.
PAF (3) – Malabanan 14, Tolentino 12, Inaudito 10, Merza 8, Hamdan 4, Balse 4, Lopez 3, Dacurong 3, Mosuela L, Tanjanlangit (L)
IEM (1) – Jimenez 16, Banang 13, Raymundo 13, Beliran 9, Dela Calzada 6, Canlas 5, Bacolod 3, Timbal 1, Almario (L)