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Army hands heavily-favored Cagayan first loss of the season



The Cagayan Valley Rising Suns have been bullying their way past opponents in the inaugural season of the Spikers’ Turf. Brandishing a collection of the country’s top offensive behemoth’s, Cagayan has outspiked each of their opponents by more than double digits; making up for the multiple attack and service errors they have incurred.

So when Cagayan’s sloppy play left the door agape for Army, the Troopers crept in and stole a hotly contested five-setter over their previously undefeated foes, 25-23, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21,15-13 at the San Juan Arena.

Army matched Cagayan point for point in attacks, nabbing 60 each. It was Cagayan’s errors late in sets that came out to bite in the end.

The Troopers controlled much of the first set as their outside hitters easily converted their high-ball sets that Cagayan’s blockers couldn’t get a read on. Cagayan found themselves in 8-13 hole, before their floor defense and blocking finally caught up to Army’s gameplan, allowing the Rising Suns to setup their high-powered attack that eventually brought them to a 19-all deadlock. A quick attack from Greg Dolor followed by Edmar Oxciano off-the-block kill gave Army a comfortable 21-19 lead which Cagayan’s Marck Espejo countered with a crosscourt hit of his own but his own service error kept Cagayan down 22-20. Cagayan crept back into the match slowly as a Peter Torres quick hit preceeded a Jaidal Abdulmajid attack error that placed Cagayan within a point of forcing a deuce 23-24 but Army confidently went to Edmar Oxciano, who crushed an attack off Peter Torres’ hand after a timeout to seal the win for Army.

The early part of the second set saw the sloppiest volleyball played in the Spikers’ Turf as 12 of the first 15 points won came off errors with Cagayan somehow coming out of the mess with a 9-6 advantage. When both finally snapped back out of their daze of errors, the Rising Suns adjusyed their net defense, sending three blockers at Army’s predicted outside attacks which forced the Troopers into attack errors as they overcompensated to navigate Cagayan’s forest of blockers. The Rising Suns built a formidable 16-10 lead which held through to the end of the set.

Cagayan experimented with their lineup in the third set, opting to start with Renz Ordoñez as the setter which sent them into an early tail slide as Ordoñez had trouble giving proper setting up his team’s offense leading to the Troopes scavenging up a 8-4 lead. Eventually, Ordoñez found his footing and got the Cagayan offense churning with a run that brought them to a 13-all tie. Cagayan really got turned the beat up when they kept producing combination plays even off sketchy digs, placing them at their first advantage in the set, 21-20. From there, Cagayan’s Berlin Paglinawan scored three of Cagayan’s next four points, closing out his team’s second set win.

Reeling from their third set loss, Army scrapped their way to a 11-7 lead early in the fourth set through intuitive combination plays and imposing blocking. With the Troopers needing just a point to get into the the set’s second technical timeout, Cagayan stormed all the way back and hijacked Army’s lead momentarily, 16-15 as Army team captain, John Depamaylo sent consecutive attacks array. The Troopers regained control of the set as setter Manolo Refugia a 3-0 scoring blitz that vaulted them back, 18-16. Cagayan nibbled away at the lead, eventually forcing a 19-all tie off a Marck Espejo block on Depamaylo but Army quickly got themselves back on track, earning five of the next seven points to clinch, placing them at set point early, 24-21. Army subbed in service specialist, Michael Reyes who did what serve specialists are supposed to do and notched an ace, forcing a fifth set.

The final set came down to a heavy back and forth as both team’s offense refused to give an inch. A 4-1 Cagayan advantage was quickly erased by Army who then struggled to catch a breakpoint to cushion themselves from the Rising Suns. With the match tied at 12, Joel Villonson got a clutch block on Marck Espejo which Edmar Oxciano followed up by ending a long rally with a thunderous down-the-line kill. Michael Reyes’ service error was quickly vindicated as Marck Espejo’s running serve hit the net, taking their undefeated record with it as it crashed to the floor.

Cagayan still has a tight hold on the number one seed and is the only team who has qualified for the tournament’s next round of eliminations with a 6-1 record. Having played their last match, Army is left hoping for the best as their 4-3 record looks in trouble of holding up with Air Force, Champion, and PLDT all tied with a 3-2 record.

The Scores

Army (3) – Oxciano 18, Depamaylo J. 15, Rojas 15, Dolor 12, Villonson 6, Abdulmajid 3, Refugia 2, Reyes 1, Depamaylo N. 0, Uy (L)

Cagayan (2) – Espejo 20, Pirante 18, Paglinawan 15, Torres 11, Pirante 10, Canlas 1, Santos 1, Zamora 0, Gatdula 0, Ramos (L)

Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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