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Cignal sweeps PSL GP first round, sends RC Cola-Air Force skidding

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Thanks to another stellar outing from import Ariel Usher, the Cignal HD Spikers overpowered the RC Cola-Air Force Raiders in four thrilling sets, 25-19, 24-26, 25-23, 25-17, sweeping all five of their first round matches in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

A University of Oregon standout, Usher scored a tournament-best 36 points – her third 30-point outing of the season – off 29 attacks, six aces, and a block. Usher nabbed points from all over the place, giving Air Force’s usually solid blocking some problems. Usher, however, thought she could have limited her errors more.

“There were a lot of times were one of us would do something good – someone would set really well, get a good pass – but then I wouldn’t get a good attack off or someone else wouldn’t. But I thought in the end everyone pulled together and finished really strongly,” said Usher.

The HD Spikers started off well, bucking an early four-point deficit then burying the Raiders after setter April Hingpit fired off a string of great serves. Air Force again jumped to an early advantage in the second set, to which the HD Spikers again responded. With the match tied at 23, the Raiders came from a timeout to score two of the next three points, all off long rallies, to reach set point. The HD Spikers then gave up an error to tie the match at a set apiece.

Both teams traded heavy blows in the third set, in which Air Force seemed to have control after back-to-back Judy Caballejo attacks put the Raiders ahead, 23-21. But Air Force’s service reception faltered, allowing Cignal to cruise to four straight points. The fourth frame was less eventful, with Cignal stomping on the breaks to convincingly take the match.

“Kumpleto na ‘yung team – sa skills, sa gelling, lahat maganda na. Ipagpapatuloy lang namin siguro ‘to,” Cignal head coach Sammy Acaylar said. And regarding comparing his team this season from last, “pantay-pantay lang kasi lahat ng mga players ngayon, walang superstar, lahat nagtutulunga,.”

Middle blocker and import Amanda Anderson paced the Cignal offense with 14 markers which includes five blocks while team captain Micmic Laborte added 10 points.

Puerto Rico National team standout Lunda Morales led the Raiders with 19 points while Judy Cabellejo and Sara McClinton, a Nebraskan import, each pitched in 14 points. After winning their first outing, RC Cola dropped their next three matches including this loss.

The Raiders complete their first round against the Foton Tornadoes on Tuesday, October 27, at the San Juan Arena while Cignal kick off their second round on the same day against the defending champions Petron Blaze Spikers.

The Scores

Cignal (3) – Usher 36, Anderson 14, Laborte 10, Vivas 4, Mandapat 2, Hingpit 1, Gallanero 1, Ancheta 1, Dionela (L), Enclona (L)

Rc Cola (1) – Morales 19, Cabellejo 14, McClinton 14, Ortiz 7, Dimaculangan 3, Cases 1, Yongco 1, Semana 0, Balmaceda (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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