American import, Arielle Usher fired off a game-high 29 points and 2 blocks as the Cignal HD Spikers won their fourth game in a row after sideswiping the Foton Tornadoes in four sets, 25-20, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23, in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix,Thursday evening, at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
“This is a game na hindi natin alam kung sino ang mananalo. My players have the high spirit to win this game because siyempre sayang naman ang pinanalo namin,” Cignal Head Coach Sam Acaylar told reporters after the game. “But of course, lahat ng kalaban namin malakas, lahat ng coaches malakas so pinag-igihan talaga ng mga bata, and they have the heart to play.”
Aside from Usher, fellow import Amanda Anderson chipped in 10 points, while Team Captain Michelle Laborte added 8 points and 2 blocks.
On the other hand, Lindsay Stalzer led Foton with 25 points and 7 digs, while Jaja Santiago followed up 15 points and 1 block. In addition, Katie Messing chalked up 11 points and 2 blocks.
“Sobrang bilib ako sa kanila not only in their skills but their attitude. They are good players and they have the heart to help the team,” Acaylar further remarked about his imports’ performances. “Kahit down ang mga players sila ang nagsasalita na ‘keep going, keep going.’ They’re good.”
Foton had a hot start as they raced to a quick 8-3 lead in the opening set courtesy from timely hits from Santiago and Stalzer. Cignal attempted to trim Foton’s momentum, but the latter still got the upper hand as they manage to extend their lead to 12-6. Sensing that the opening set would slip away from their at that point, Usher took it upon herself to even things up as sent down a flurry of powerful hits to drop 10 straight points on Foton and take a 16-10 lead.
Cignal would then take advantage of Foton’s scoring drought and cuff them with their stingy defense with Anderson manning the middle. After a back and forth exchange attacks, it was Cignal who came out on top of the opening set after Usher’s booming backrow attack.
With momentum on their side, Cignal quickly nailed an 8-5 lead with Usher leading the way once again. Foton made their adjustments but Cignal answered everything via their defense, which further swelled their lead to 16-8. Sensing the kill, it was once again an all-Usher show as Cignal ran away in the second set, 25-16.
The third set, however, was a different story as Foton used its height to its advantage. A series of attacks from Santiago, Stalzer and Kayla Tiangco-Williams gave Foton a 16-11 lead. As usual, Cignal tried to weather the storm via Usher’s power blows but Foton’s net defense simply negated it. Going for the home run, Stalzer would then extend the game to a fourth set by after raining a series of kills.
Not wanting the game to go the distance, Cignal upper their intensity in the fourth set, which was once again led by the all-around performance of Usher. But despite the a powerful barrage by Usher, Foton was still at bay thanks to their defense. There were a lot of long rallies but Cignal would find ways to shatter Foton’s solid floor defense. Cignal would then have a little bit of leeway after Usher and Laborte’s timely points gave them a 22-19 lead. Cignal would then win the game after Stalzer committed a service error during match point.
With this win, Cignal is now the lone undefeated team of the conference with a 4-0 record. They will now attempt to sweep the first round as they are set to face the RC Cola Air Force Raiders this coming Sunday, 1:00 pm, at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Cignal (3) – Usher 29, Anderson 10, Laborte 8, Gallenero 4, Vivas 2, Mandapat 2, Ancheta 0, Aguilar 0, Dionela (L) 0, Enclona (L) 0.
Foton (1) – Stalzer 25, Santiago 15, Messing 11, Tiangco-Williams 10, Araneta 3, Orendain 0, Macatuno 0, Perez 0, Delos Reyes 0, General (L) 0, Acevedo (L) 0.