Two weeks ago, the College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers seemed lile this season’s afterthought after wasting winnable matches.
But CSB rose from their doldrums and took lead at the NCAA Finals after handling the San Sebastian College of Recoletos Lady Stags in Game Two 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-16 at the FilOil Flying V Centre, earlier today.
The Lady Stags seemed riled up from their Game One loss and got off early in the first set. Down 16-18, the Lady Blazers crept back, going to their middle blockers for points and taking their first lead of the set, 21-20. Both teams then traded before the Lady Blazers strung together consecutive points to get an early jump.
Benilde rode a strong second set start to into a 15-13 lead before stumbling. Reigning MVP, Grethcel Soltones got into a short groove and, combined with Benilde’s errors, led the Lady Stags to an 18-16 lead. Mishandling their first touches, Benilde allowed their foes to waltz to their only set win.
Another strong start greeted the Lady Blazers in the second set. Shoring up their defense and attacking strongly, CSB got up by as much as eight, 16-8, but SSC had another run in them. With Soltones at the service line, SSC rattled off four straight points then continued their roll to a 21-20 lead. CSB Middle Blocker Jeanette Panaga, pulled his team back, scoring off a spike then a block. Soltones then fired a back row try wide, setting up Ranya Musa’s set-winning slide hit.
Leading the fourth set, 16-11, Benilde did not let up. Fatigued from carrying her team’s offense almost the entire match, Soltones could not muster another offensive burst and instead consistently misfired.
After the match, Benilde Head Coach was elated with the win but admitted that he could not feel fully happy yet.
“Aside from the slow start, maganda execution namin the entire game. Pero hindi pa tapos, we still need one more.game to make history. Ayoon na ang moti namin ngayon – makuha ‘yung first championship ng Benilde. We have to manage our emotions. Ang sabi ko nga sa mga player, masama ang lahat ng sobra.”
Benilde got a balanced effort from its three best scorers. Janine Navarro, Jeanette Panaga, and Ranya Musa all scored 16 markers, leading their team to the advantage in every scoring skill.
Soltones mirrored her Game One sheet with 27 points on 26 for 74 attacking. Her teammates again provided minimal offensive support with the next best scorer, Dangie Encarnacion, scoring just six points.
Benilde can take the title on Game Three, Tuesday, 4 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre. San Sebastian can force a Game 4 to be held on Friday.
CSB (3) – Navarro 16, Musa 16, Panaga 16, Santillan 8, Daguil 5, Cheng 4, Dolorito 1, Lim 1, Torres (L)
SSC (1) – Soltones 27, Encarnacion 6, Villegas 5, Dalisay 4, Guillema 3, Sta. Rita 2, Labiano 0, Lim 0, Crisostomo 0, Eroa (L)