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Challenge accepted! Cignal thwarts PLDT to reach Finals

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“Tinake nila yung challenge ko. Sabi ko nga nung meeting kanina, ‘isipin natin yung game ngayon wala nang bukas’. Kahit twice-to-beat tayo, bibigyan pa ba natin sila ng isa pang laban?”

“Sabi ko ‘No’,” Cignal head coach Michael Cariño during the post-game scrum.

The Cignal HD Spikers survived the feisty PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters in their semifinals series with a 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 11-25 15-8 victory to nail a ticket to the finals of the Spikers Turf Reinforced Conference at the FilOil Flying V Arena, Sunday afternoon.

Lorenzo Capate Jr. led the Cignal offense in the opening set, creating a 23-21 lead against PLDT. JP Torres committed a service error to give the HD Spikers a 24-21 lead, but Berlin Paglinawan blocked Alexis Faytaren to save a point for PLDT at 24-22. Still, Cignal took the set after Edmar Bonono unloaded a cross court attack to nab the set for the HD Spikers.

Peter Torres, Mark Alfafara, and Ron Jay Galang fought back for PLDT in the second set as they overwhelmed the HD Spikers with their offense. Torres ended the set with a runner to tie things at one set apiece. The HD Spikers struggled to get their offensive groove back as they played catch-up against PLDT all throughout the set.

Both teams played a roller-coaster third set, settling with score tied at 18. Capate and Bonono conspired to pull the set from PLDT, but Alfafara kept the Ultra Fast Hitters in the set, scoring three of four points for PLDT to slow down Cignal at 24-23. However, the HD Spikers grabbed the set with a Faytaren runner to spoil the comeback of PLDT.

Alfafara, Henry Pecana, and Torres buried the HD Spikers in the following set as their opponent was unable to create any offense to responsd to PLDT. However, in the final set, Capate waxed hot to give Cignal a 9-3 lead. PLDT had some gas left in the tank as Alfafara and Galang’s timely attacks cut the lead to 3, 9-6 . Still, Capate, Faytaren and Jeffrey Lansangan combined efforts to put the match out of reach for PLDT.

“Tinalo na namin sila last year, sa kabilang liga nga lang. Sinabi ko sa kanila na yun yung gamitin nila na motivation,” Cariño disclosed after the game. “Lahat ng hirap at struggles na pinagdaanan natin gawin nating inspirasyon para umabot sa finals.”

He added that they did not want to extend the series, as “negativity” might set in with the HD Spikers. “Yung previous games kasi namin inisip nila na pasok na sila sa Top Four. Filipino attitude, isip nila kumpiyansa na na nakakapasok kami. Yun yung inaalis namin sa kanila,” he said. “Kung aabot pa sa isa pa, magkakaroon pa ng negativity sa kanila. Maganda ang performace na pinakita nila at satisfied ako.”

Looking forward, Coach Cariño still sees a lot of facets that his team should improve in, especially if they go up against the Philippine Air Force Air Spikers. “Madami pa kelangan iimprove. Sobra pa. Lalo na yung blocking namin. Against Air Force, malakas na team yan e, malaking advantage yung setter nila. Kelangan namin tapatan yun,” he closed.

Capate scored 26 points, 23 coming from attacks to lead Cignal, while Herschel Ramos and Edmar Bonono chipped 12 and 11 markers apiece.

Alfafara finished with 28 points with Galang and Pecana contributed 17 and 12 points respectively for PLDT and setter Vince Mangulabnan tossed 35 excellent sets.

The HD Spikers will face the winner of semifinals series between Philippine Air Force Air Spikers and Philippine Navy Sailors. PLDT will salvage their season in a battle for bronze as they face the loser of Air Spikers- Sailors match.

The Scores:
Cignal (3) – Capate 26, Ramos 12, Bonono 11, Faytaren 10, Christensen 7, Lansangan 2, Calderon 2, Ablan 2, Diezmo 1, Lee, Relata 0, Ybanez 0, Montero (L).
PLDT (2) – Alfafara 28, Galang 17, Pecana 12, Torres P. 11, Franco 5, Torres J. 2, Mangulabnan 1, Paglinawan 1, Casillan 0, Longavela (L).

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