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De Guzman, CSB outshines Mojica, EAC in NCAA Finals rematch

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The best spectacle in volleyball often occur when a team with a dynamite open hitter faces off with a squad that carries an all-around opposite hitter. Given the positions on the rotation of the open and opposite hitter, they are often tasked with stopping each other.

Such was the case when the College of Saint Benilde (CSB) Blazers, with John Vic De Guzman in tow, took down their NCAA rivals Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals, spearheaded by Howard Mojica, in five thrilling sets, 25-22, 21-25, 16-25, 25-22, 15-13 in the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

Teammates in the inagural Spikers’ Turf Open Conference, Mojica and De Guzman traded blows throughout the match but it was CSB’s resiliency to comeback from heavy deficits that edged the NCAA runner-ups over the NCAA champs.

Reigning NCAA MVP, Mojica fired off a tournament-high 35 points from 29 attacks, four blocks, and two aces which De Guzman matched with 25 markers that includes 21 attacks, three blocks, and an ace.

De Guzman, however, got clutch contributions from his teammates at crucial points of the sets they won. Open hitter, Racmade Etrone helped close the first set out while Julian Jordan and Isaah Arda came alive in the fourth set and forced a fifth and deciding frame.

Neither team got much of an edge in the final set, but EAC managed to scrounge up a 13-11 lead off a CSB error followed by a Mojica off the block hit. Following a CSB timeout, the Generals fell apart, coughing up multiple errors off net touches and attacks that went astray. EAC Head Coach, Rod Palmero called for time when CSB hijacked the lead, 14-13, but his wards failed to setup his desired play and gave up a free ball which CSB easily converted with Jordan pounding a quick attack home.

Etrone finished with 14 points, Arda cobbled together 12 markers while Mark Anthony Deximo turned in a terrific play making performance with 36 excellent sets.

After the match, CSB Head Coach, Arnold Laniog admitted that the Finals rematch bore heavy in his team’s mind. “Talagang gusto ng mga player ko na bumawi dun nga sa pagkatalo sa Finals last year. Sabi ko nga alam na namin ‘yung galawan nang isa’t isa, magkakatalunan na lang sa kung sino ‘yung gusto talaga manalo. Nakita niyo naman ‘yun sa nilaro namin noong fifth set.”

EAC opposite hitter, Hariel Doguna paced his team’s attack with 12 markers while Kerth Melliza pulled his weight when Mojica rotated to the back row with 11 points.

Benilde advanced their record to 1-3 following the first round while the loss marks EAC’s second straight and lands them a 2-2 card.

The Generals face the Ateneo Blue Eagles in a battle of collegiate champs on Wednesday, August 19 while Benilde has the undefeated NU Bulldogs on the same day.

The Scores:

CSB (3) – De Guzman 25, Etrone 14, Arda 12, Jordan 8, Orian 5, Deximo 3, Coming 0, Chua (L)

EAC (2) – Mojica 35, Dohuna 12, Melliza 11, Arias 8, Pagtalunan 7, Encina 4, Bihag 0, Cilocilo 0, Mangaring (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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