It took a coaching change and several key additions for the Cignal HD Spikers to find a way to go past the Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers
After two consecutive conferences of bridesmaid finishes, the HD Spikers overthrew the Air Force dynasty, completing a sweep of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals with a thrilling five-set victory in Game Two, 17-25, 27-25, 27-25, 16-25, 15-10, at the historic PhilSports Arena.
“All season, I’ve been telling my players to just believe and trust in each other and nakita naman with how we won today. We kept pushing and trusted each other when things got tough. I’m just very happy and very blessed that we could a championship with this special group of players,” said Cignal head coach Oliver Almadro, who claimed his first Reinforced Conference title in his first go with the team. He has three UAAP titles and two PVL title in his collection.
Cignal had to grind for the sets they won. After dominating the open frame, Air Force continued to control the match in the following sets only for the HD Spikers to swoop in late, force a deuce, and steal the set. Trailing 24-22, the HD Spikers gutted out the next two long rallies to force a deadlock. Errors from Air Force buoyed the HD Spikers to tie the match at a set apiece.
Similarly, the Jet Spikers battled to stay ahead in the third frame, 25-24, before Cignal swept the rug from under them. Thanks to quick transitions, Cignal came away with a 2-1 lead thanks to a 3-0 finishing flurry.
Air Force went full blast in the fourth set to force a decider, but ran out of steam for the crucial set. Cignal decisively took the match after extending their 8-6 lead to 11-6.
“Well unang una yung Cignal naman before I came is a strong team. Maganda na yung team nila so nung pagkatalo nung previous years I just gave them the confidence. The ‘always that they will believe’ attitude yung parang attitude na never give up yun lang naman ang binigay ko sa kanila this time. They are already a talented team they just have to believe in themselves and they just have to combine their talents and efforts,” added Almadro.
Ateneo de Manila University standout Rex Intal and former Air Force reinforcement Mark Alfafara each tallied 17 points to boost Cignal. Both claimed their third PVL titles.
Cignal claimed their second title as a franchise, first winning a crown in the 2015 Reinforced Coference also against Air Force.
UAAP Season 79 MVP runner-up Bryan Bagunas powered in 23 points for Air Force, while Season MVP Ranran Abdilla added 17.
Cignal (3) – Alfafara 17, Intal 17, Torres 13, Marasigan 12, Capate 8, Mangulabnan 3, Bonono 0, Diezmo 0, Faytaren 0, Ramos 0, Villanueva 0, Montero (L)
Air Force (2) – Bagunas 23, Abdilla 17, Ismail 11, Malbunga 11, Malabanan 9, Lopez 3, Tolentino 2, Dela Calzada 0, Dimaculangan 0, Chavez (L)
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