After more than two hours of intense battle, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons rallied back and won over the National College of Business and Arts Wildcats in five sets, 25-12, 27-25 23-25, 25-27, 15-13, to take their second straight win the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference, Monday morning at the Philsports Multipurpose Arena in Pasig City.
Despite the win, head coach Rod Palmero was visibly unsatisfied. “Ang baba ng laro. Nakita ko na kaya ma-straight sets pero na-five sets pa,” he said.
The Maroons flexed their muscles in the opening set and punished the Wildcats en route to a lopsided scoreline. Valbuena poured most of his 20 attacks in that period.
However, things turned out differently in the following sets. In the second, NCBA raced to an early lead with Jason Canlas and Jeffrey Jimenez leading the charge. They reached a 23-20 scoreline off a Canlas kill, but UP crawled back in the set. Back-to-back clutch aces from Niccolo Consuelo and Charles Acuña pushed the Maroons to set point. An error by the Wildcats surrendered the frame and the 2-0 set advantage to UP.
It was the same story in the following two sets. Only this time, NCBA pounced on the Fighting Maroons’ miscues, as skipper Ralph Oclima provided crucial points to fend off the UP comeback attempts. Two errors from Alfred Valbuena and Mac Millete closed out the next two frames as the match went to a decisive set.
The Wildcats started the fifth set strongly, as UP succumbed to errors. Hans Chuacuco was then fielded in for Valbuena, and the defense of the Maroons tightened up. UP then tied the match at 9, before a productive stint of Consuelo pushed the Diliman spikers into the lead, ending with a Chuacuco hit.
NCBA tried to inch closer and extend the match further, but Gian San Pascual denied hits from Canlas and Oclima. Sensing the need to close it out, Millete wisely brushed the ball off the hands of Jimenez for the game-winning kill.
Palmero also made note of Consuelo’s performance, who was used in place of the injured captain Wendel Miguel. “Si Niccolo, bata pa kasi. Pag maganda laro, andun pero inconsistent,” he shared.
“Mino-motivate ko siya na huwag ma-pressure sa position na papalitan niya. Laruin lang niya yung laro niya.”
San Pascual finished the game with eight points, five coming from crucial blocks. Millete and Consuelo had 10 markers each.
On the other hand, Canlas led the Wildcats with 24, 23 coming from attacks. Jimenez followed up with 15 points, 12 coming from spikes.
The Fighting Maroons (2-0) will try to extend their winning run against the University of Santo Tomas (1-0) on August 17 at 10 am. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (0-2) take on defending champions Ateneo de Manila University (2-0) on Saturday, August 20, at the same time. Both matches will be at the PhilSports Arena.
UP (3) – Valbuena 23, Raymundo 12, Millete 10, Consuelo 10, San Pascual 8, Acuna 5, San Pedro 4, Chuacuco 1, Luna (L)
NCBA (2) – Canlas 24, Jimenez 15, Valenzuela 12, Oclima R 12, Nullar 9, Oclima CJ 0, Lumachay 0, Vicente (L)