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Air Force thwarts Cignal in four sets

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Philippine Air Force (PAF) Airmen barged into the win column after trouncing Cignal HD Spikers in four sets, 25-22, 25-22, 15-25, and 25-22, in their opening match this morning in the Spikers’ Turf Season 1 Open Conference at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.

Both teams were still shaking off the rust in the opening set, but Air Force had the upper hand in the early part of the set due to Cignal’s numerous errors. However, PAF had their share of miscues, causing Cignal to come from behind and equalize the set.

Air Force overcame their errors as they posted their biggest lead of the set, 20-16, but Cignal inched within one, 20-19, after an attack from the PAF side went outside. Cignal, behind offensive contributions from Red Christensen, Lorenzo Capate, and Reyson Fuentes, sent the set into a 22-all affair, but Air Force toughened their net defense to halt Cignal’s rally. Jeffrey Malabanan ended the set with a check ball, 25-22.

The second set was similar to the first one, with both squads committing error after error; but this time, it was Cignal who had the upper hand with their offensive attacks behind Capate and Edmar Bonono. However, PAF regained their bearings courtesy of Edwin Tolentino, who nailed four straight points to bring the Airmen back on top, 17-15.

The error bug seemed to bite Air Force as they inadvertently made miscues, paving the way for Cignal to make it 19-all. But after a few exchanges between the squads, PAF got back up and led by two, 22-20, which forced the spikers in red to call a timeout. The timeout did not seem to help, for the Airmen quickly coasted to a two sets-to-none advantage after a 3-2 scoring exchange that led to 25-22.

Dreading the thought of being swept, Cignal put themselves back on track in the third set. From a 4-all knot, the HD Spikers unleashed eight unanswered hits, 12-4. Only a service error from Fuentes halted their streak, giving away a point to PAF, 12-5.

PAF tried to look for a momentum shift in every possession, but Cignal’s pesky defense and fluid offense proved to be too much. A drop ball from Capate posted a nine-point cushion for Cignal, 18-7. From then on, the HD Spikers never looked back and carried their rhythm until the third set ended, 25-15.

The Airmen started strong in the fourth set as they opened it up 4-0 behind quick attacks and combination plays from Malabanan and Ruben Inaudito. PAF posted a five-point lead, 8-3, as Inaudito and Reny Balse conspired for their team’s offensive. However, Cignal then retaliated, closing to within three, 11-8, when Airmen’s Jessie Lopez’ service went outside.

In spite of closing in, Cignal never had a chance to grab the lead from PAF, as Air Force provided answers for every attack the HD Spikers provide. The closest Cignal got was by two, 22-20, courtesy of a service error from PAF. Air Force nailed two straight points to get to match point, 24-20, but two unanswered attacks from the HD Spikers halted PAF’s run, 24-22. Cignal tried to inch within striking distance, but a quick attack from PAF’s Dante Alinsunurin shattered the door for a Cignal comeback, 25-22, thus posting PAF’s first win.

Edwin Tolentino led charge for the Air Force with 21 points coming from 15 spikes, 5 blocks, and a service ace. Inaudito and Malabanan had 11 and 10, respectively. Jessie Lopez had 36 excellent sets for the Airmen.

Bonono paced the HD Spikers with 16 points, while Capate had 14 in a losing effort.

With the victory, PAF Head Coach SSG Rhovyl Verayo pushed his team to play their best as the season goes along. “Basta ako sabi ko lalaban tayo. Team Air Force pa rin ‘to, so kailangan lumaban para sa Air Force,” said Verayo.

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Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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