Despite a slow pace all through out, Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers managed to pull off a victory against IEM Volley Masters in four sets, 22-25, 25-22, 25-15, and 25-21 in the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Reinforced Conference Wednesday afternoon at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Three Jet Spikers spearheaded Air Force’s offense in the victory. Howard Mojica scored 16 points off 15 attacks. Reyson Fuentes supplied 13, while Edwin Tolentino chipped in 10 markers. Jessie Lopez made 35 excellent sets.
Air Force played in today’s match without Bryan Bagunas and Mark Alfafara, who are both playing in the University Games in Dumaguete City.
From a 15-all tie midway into the opening set, IEM stepped up their net defense to deny Air Force’s hits to take the lead and reach set point, 24-19. But due to their own miscues, the Jet Spikers were able to score three straight and inch closer, 24-22. Air Force had the momentum on their side, but a Christian Arbasto quick attack sent IEM to a 1-0 set lead, 25-22.
Air Force took the upper hand in the next set, but IEM proved to be a tough nut to crack. With the Jet Spikers ahead and just two points shy of wrapping the set in their favor, 23-17, JP Torres lifted the Volley Masters through consecutive check balls to scare Air Force, 24-22. However, Torres’ cross-court hit went too long, thus helping the Airmen send the match to a 1-1 affair, 25-22.
With their blistering offense, the Jet Spikers took control of the third set, even posting the match’s first two-digit lead at 21-11 after a Niño Jerus block. The Volley Masters were able to punch in a few points behind Patrick Vecina and Khenno Franco to trim the lead to a single figure, 24-15, but could not chip away the deficit further as Ruben Inaudito scored off a combo play to close the set for Air Force, 25-15.
Both squads engaged in a nip-and-tuck battle come the fourth and final period, sending the set to an 18-all deadlock approaching the final moments. From the said tie, the Jet Spikers gained their bearings on offense, unleashing a 7-4 run behind Inaudito and Fuentes through combination plays and running attacks to seal the match and eke out their fourth win in a row, 25-21.
Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo, with regards to the team’s low energy the whole match, said that fatigue has been catching up on the team slowly since they haven’t had ample time to rest from all the three competitions they took part.
“Dahan-dahan na kami sa ensayo ngayon at nasusunog na yung mga players. Isipin mo, tatlong sunod na liga, wala pa kaming pahinga,” said Verayo. “Natuwa rin naman ako sa nilaro nung mga bata, na kahit ganon eh ginawa nila lahat.”
With their fourth straight win, the Jet Spikers are now assured of a slot in the conference semifinals.
Franco led IEM’s charge with 17 markers in a losing effort.
Air Force (4-0) will look to cap off the eliminations unscathed as they face the streaking Champion Supra Spikers next Wednesday, November 2, at 12:30 PM. IEM (2-2), meanwhile, will aim to bounce back against Philippine Army Troopers this Saturday, October 29, at 10:30 AM.
Air Force (3) – Mojica 16, Fuentes 13, Tolentino 10, Inaudito 9, Malabanan 7, Labrador 7, Jerus 6, Lopez 1, De Ocampo 1, Avila 0, Mosuela L, Chavez L.
IEM (1) – Franco 17, Torres 9, Arbasto 7, Canlas E. 5, Canlas J. 5, Vecina 4, Valenzuela 3, Zamora 2, Cerilles 1, Lozada 0, Molate 0, Conde L, Ramos L.