By: Jonash Dannug
The last time Marck Espejo played against the Philippine Air Force, he failed to win another championship with the Cignal HD Spikers losing their best-of-three championship series back in 2017.
And so, heading to this game, Espejo had an ax to grind with the defending Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference champions.
“Kasi yung last conference ko with Cignal, tapos kalaban namin Air Force, talo kami. Yun yung pinanghawakan ko na mindset na sana, by this time naman, mananalo na kami,” said the five-time UAAP Most Valuable Player.
“Pride na din siguro, na parang sinasabi nila na yung Cignal yung isa sa pinaka-malakas na team,” he continued.
“So ayun. Yung pride namin na hanggat sama-sama kami, hangga’t maaari, lahat ng teams na makakalaban namin mananalo kami.”
In their first meeting this year, the HD Spikers hammered their arch-rivals in three sets, 25-18, 25-20, 25-14, for their third win of the conference.
Besides chalking one up, the win was particularly important for Cignal since the victory showed they can compete against the very best.
“Importanteng win ‘to kasi Air Force yan, isa sa pinaka-malakas na kalaban namin, so parang ito rin yung momentum namin or guide kung hanggang saan ba kami dito sa tournament na ‘to,” said team captain Ysay Marasigan, who had nine points in the contest.
Having faced Air Force in seven of the last eight Spikers’ Turf Finals, Cignal knows that it won’t be that far-fetched to face them again this year.
“Hindi naman nawawala sa mindset namin yun, expect pa rin namin ‘yung Air Force sa finals,” Marasigan continued.
“Laging Air Force and Cignal ‘yung naglalaban. Parang sila ‘yung rivalry, so pride na din talaga,” added Espejo, who dropped 15 points in the game.
The Jet Spikers were shorthanded last Sunday, though. And once the tournament heads into the deep waters, Espejo and Rex Intal know all too well that they will come back with a vengeance.
“It’s a statement win, pero alam naman namin na kulang yung players nila ngayon. Pero we didn’t treat them lightly pa,” recalled Intal, who had seven points built on three blocks.
“They still have power players like [Ranran] Abdilla, nandiyan si [Kim] Malabunga. Mga veterans na talaga sila and they’re very smart players.”
“‘Yung Air Force lagi namang ganyan sa umpisa eh. Medyo slow start sila, pero pagdating quarterfinals hanggang mag-finals, nag-iiba talaga ‘yung laro nila,” Espejo closed.
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