The University of Perpetual Help System Dalta Altas looked distraught after dropping their third straight match to the defending champs, Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, in Game One of the NCAA Finals last Monday.
A team known for adjusting and never staying put, the Altas shockingly had no reply for the furious Generals’ attack. Even when EAC coughed up 41 errors, the Altas still went down rather easily in four sets.
But Perpetual still had a few aces up their sleeves. With their backs against the wall, the squad from Las Piñas pulled a true all-around team effort and finally defeated EAC in Game Two last Thursday.
Like a mad chef throwing food at the ceiling to see which would stick, Perpetual head coach Sammy Acaylar explored every option he had. Luckily, his wards were ready.
“After noong Game One, binago ko ang approach ko sa kanila. I have many options on the bench that I can go to. Kung may makita akong pwede kong gawing balasa para makalamang kami, gagawin ko.”
Coming off the bench, wing hitter Dean Abcede provided the Altas with his best performance of the season, scoring 14 points. Usually the starting middle blocker, Manuel Doliente entered the match in the of the third set and led a run that allowed Perpetual to clinch the set comfortably. Allan Sala An nailed two clutch points late in the fourth set, while John Patrick Ramos, Esmail Kasim, and Relan Taneo had their moments to shine early in the match.
With strict substitution rules and most coaches valuing continuity in their lineup, rarely does a volleyball coach swap so many of his players in and out of a match as Acaylar did in Game Two. But having played so many matches against the same team, the Altas would do very well to keep the Generals on their toes, especially heading into the deciding Game Three on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
“Lahat sa amin nasabihan na kailangan gumawa kapag pinasok ni coach. Nasa isip namin lahat kami gagamitin, kaya kapag pinasok, do your best na lang para makatulong,” said open hitter Rey Taneo who recovered from a forgettable Game One outing and dumped a team-high 16 points last Thursday.
One of the few remnants of Perpetual’s volleyball dynasty, graduating team captain Bonjomar Castel hopes his desperation to win another title can again rub off on his teammates.
“Iwan na namin lahat ng meron kami sa laban na ‘yun. Kailangan maibalik namin ‘yung championship sa Perpetual. Puso lang.”
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