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Air Force fend off Cignal, take game one of the finals



The Philippine Air Force Air Spikers recovered from a second set lapse to drub the Cignal HD Spikers 25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 25-19, and take the game one of the Spikers Turf Reinforced Conference Finals at the FilOil Flying V Arena, Saturday afternoon.

In the opening set, Jeffrey Malabanan led the Air Force offense as the HD Spikers’ floor defense had a difficult time countering the attacks of Air Force. Cignal found themselves at a 9-7 disadvantage in the second set, and had to rely on Edmar Bonono and Alexis Faytaren to snatch the lead from Air Force, 14-13. An Edward Ybanez tip and cross court attack from Bonono widened the lead to 16-14 in the second technical timeout. Afterwards, the HD Spikers overwhelmed Air Force with attacks and aces coming from Bonono, Jeffrey Lansangan, Lorenzo Capate, and Red Relata to counter the slow recovering of Air Force.

Trailing at 9-4 in the third set, Malabanan and Reyson Fuentes conspired to bring Air Force to a 16-15 advantage. Former National University standouts Edwin Tolentino and Rueben Inaudito came alive in the latter part, helping Air Force counter the HD Spikers’ comeback — led by Capate and Ybanez — and establish a two-sets-to-one lead against Cignal.

The fourth set was tight, with both teams tied at 12. Rodolfo Labrador carried Air Force into a 16-13 lead as Cignal committed plenty of errors. Malabanan, Fuentes, and Tolentino stepped up in the latter part of the set. The HD Spikers attempted a comeback, but Malabanan unloaded a runner to end the game.

“Kahit ano mangyayari lalaban ang Cignal kaya sinabi ko sa kanila kailangan natin magkaroon ng strong start at makuha ang third set para maisahan natin sila. Kailangan makuha namin ang first ball lalo noong third set. Sumandal din sila sa blocking tapos nagkaproblema pa kami sa service namin” said Air Force Rhovyl Verayo in the complacency of his team against the HD Spikers.

Malabanan led the Air Force’s all-around offense with 17 points, while Labrador and Fuentes combined for 24 markers. Setter Jessie Lopez tossed 29 excellent sets.

Bonono finished with 18 points together with six digs, with Capate chipped 12 points in the losing effort of the HD Spikers.

The Philippine Air Force will try to close the series and clinch their first Spikers Turf title as they battle the HD Spikers once again in the game two of the finals on November 25 at 3:00 PM in the same venue.

The Scores:

PHI Air Force (3) – Malabanan 17, Labrador 12, Fuentes 12, Inaudito 10, Tolentino 7, Abria 0, De Ocampo 0, Mosuela (L)

Cignal (1) – Bonono 18, Capate 12, Ybanez 8, Faytaren 8, Ramos 4, Relata 1, Calderon 1, Lansangan 1, Diezmo 1, Christensen 0, Lee 0, Montero (L)

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