The Philippine Air Force Airmen breezed past the Instituto Estetico Manila (IEM) Volley Masters to enter the the finals of the Open Conference of Spikers’ Turf 2016, today at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Already leading by a game in their best-of-three semifinals matchup coming into this one, the Airmen finished the job and took the match in three sets, 25-15, 25-21, 34-32.
After breezing through the first set 25-15, capped by a down-the-line hit by Edwin Tolentino and consecutive service aces by Reyson Fuentes, the Airmen found themselves down by three, 9-12 in the second frame, and forced head coach Rhovyl Verayo to call a timeout.
Having talked things over, Air Force rode on their defense and IEM’s unforced errors to overtake the Volley Masters and lead coming into the second technical timeout, 16-14, capped by a service ace by Fauzi Ismail.
With the momentum on their side, the Airmen took the set, 25-21, after another down-the-line attack by Tolentino.
The Volley Masters gave it all they had in the third set, trying to keep their conference alive, saving three match points and having four set points of their own, but still failing to close out the set. Finally, a service ace by Fauzi Ismail and an off-the-block hit by top-scorer Howard Mojica finished the deal, 34-32.
Mojica scored 15, off 12 spikes and three blocks, while Ismail who top-scored in game one, had 11, off nina attacks and two aces.
The head coach lauded IEM’s resilience, but was happy his team was more composed in the end.
“Siyempre ‘yung IEM, ‘di mo rin basta basta pwedeng [i-count out]. Magagaling rin maglaro e. Sabi ko nga, ‘pag ‘yung mga crucial na laro na, which is 23-all, 24-all, kung sino ‘yung mas gustong manalo, siya talaga ‘yung mananalo,” said Verayo. “‘Yun na lang ‘yung ginawa kong perspective sa mga bata para talagang ilaban nila ‘yung [third set].”
The Airmen will face the winner of the Cignal versus Sta. Elena semifinals bracket on July 13 at the Philsports Arena.
“Siyempre masaya kami kasi nakarating na naman kami ng finals. Mahaba pa naman ‘yung pahinga, mahaba-haba rin ‘yung ensayo namin so titingnan rin namin ‘yung laro ng Cignal. Kung maaalala niyo, last time tinalo kami niyang four sets, so mahaba-haba pa ‘yung paghahanda,” closed Verayo.
Air Force (3) – Mojica 15, Malabanan 12, Fuentes 12, Labrador 11, Ismail 11, Tolentino 3, De Ocampo 1, Avila 0, Lopez 0, Chavez (L)
IEM (0) – Dolor 14, Dela Calzada 9, Canlas 7, Jimenez 5, Conde 3, Canlas J. 3, Refugia 2, Gatdula 2, Cerilles 1, Timbal 0, Lozada 0, Ramos (L), Melgar (L)