Cagayan Valley Rising Suns proved that youth can overcome experience, as they ousted a veteran squad in Philippine Air Force (PAF) Airmen in four sets, 25-16, 25-22, 21-25, and 26-24, in their preliminary round match-up in the Spikers’ Turf Season 1 Open Conference, this morning at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
The Rising Suns had the upper hand in the opening set, posting a huge seven-point lead as the set drew to its end, 19-12. Errors on their side, however, helped PAF slowly regain footing and close within five, 20-15. Sensing that the Airmen might pull a come-from-behind attack, Cagayan unfurled four straight points off attack and blocks to reach set point, 24-15. PAF’s Edwin Tolentino made a quick attack, which prevented Cagayan to score their fifth straight, 24-16, but an attack error from fellow Airmen, Remy John Balse, closed the set in favor of the Rising Suns, 25-16.
PAF and Cagayan had a close fight in the second set right from the start to the latter part, restricting each other to post leads as huge as five points. Sitting comfortably on the driver’s seat with a three-point lead, 22-19, the Rising Suns saw themselves being chased by the Airmen, as PAF closed within one, 23-22, after an attack off a combination play by Ruben Inaudito went in. However, it proved to be the closest that they will get as Jan Paglinawan and Warren Pirante nailed back-to-back points to close out the set, 25-22, plus a two-sets-to-none advantage.
Cagayan tried to finish PAF off in the third set, but the level of intensity they displayed in the first two sets had dwindled slightly, letting PAF capitalize and take majority of the leads from midway to the end of the set. Furthermore, errors were rampant for the Cagayan side, when they committed eight unforced errors in the set alone. The Rising Suns tried to save their bid for a straight-set win by inching within three, 24-21, after a service error from the Air Force side, but a drop from the high-leaping front liners of the Airmen prevented them from doing so. PAF snatched the third set from Cagayan, 25-21, avoiding a sweep.
Looking to pick up where they left off from the previous set, PAF pounded Cagayan’s net and floor defense by giving them a hard time receiving their quick attacks and cross-court hits. However, the Rising Suns, hard-pressed to prove that they can slug it out and be on top of a squad rich in experience, came back to haunt PAF. Behind by four, 19-15, Cagayan surged back to send the match into a 20-all knot behind Marck Espejo and Rex Intal. From there, exchanges between the two took place, and deadlocks after deadlocks occurred. Behind by one, 24-23, Airmen’s Inaudito nailed a spike off a combination play to equalize, 24-all. Cagayan’s Rudy Gatdula, coming off the bench, staunched a quick hit to put his team up, 25-24, closer to match point. PAF tried to send it to 25-all, but Tolentino’s attack went too far and landed outisde the line, thus giving Cagayan the victory in four sets, 26-24.
Cagayan Head Coach, Nes Pamilar, stated that the adjustments they made were based on their opponents’ movement and pace. “Yung unang galaw namin, naging mas mabilis kami, pero nung third set, pinaalala ko ‘bakit tayo sumasabay sa galaw ng kalaban, eh mabagal?’ Yun nga ang naging advantage namin, naging mas mabibilis ang kombinasyon, kaya mas nahirapan sila [PAF] humabol sa blockings,” said Pamilar.
Four Rising Suns scored in double figures, with Espejo leading the way with a game-high 17 points, 13 of those coming from spikes. Paglinawan had 14 points, with all from spikes. Peter Torres had 13, while Intal added 10. Jeffrey Malabanan led the Airmen with 16 points in a losing effort.
The win kept Cagayan’s record unblemished, as they improved to 4-0.
Cagayan Valley (3) – Espejo 17, Paglinawan 14, P. Torres 13, Intal 10, Pirante 7, Ordonez 3, Santos 3, Calderon 2, Gatdula 1, Ramos(L)
Phil. Air Force (1) – Malabanan 16, Tolentino 14, Inaudito 10, Alinsunurin 8, Dacurong 7, Lopez 3, Balse 2, Mosuela(L)