With the championship match-up finally locked, all eyes will be on the country’s best as Air Force’s Bryan Bagunas will go up against long-time rival and Cignal main hitter Marck Espejo.
However, with the spotlight gleaming hard on Bagunas and Espejo, the real pressure lies between the team’s setters, who will be tasked to steer their respective offensive attacks to greater heights.
Air Force will bank on two-time Spikers’ Turf Best Setter Jessie Lopez to orchestrate the offense.
With a bulk of national team members in the Jet Spikers’ side, the pressure of making things work for a loaded line-up rests at Lopez’s shoulders.
Luckily for them, the long-time National team member does not shy away from a fight. Running the Air Force’s offense will be all about pride for the former FEU Tamaraw.
“Sa international, kaya kong magbigay ng set play na hindi nape-predict ng kalaban so what more dito sa Pilipinas na pare-parehas lang kaming local players,” said Lopez.
“Hindi ko naman pinagmamalaki yung narating namin doon. Ang gusto kong iparating is yung experience na nakuha ko dun is sobrang laki,” the 32-year-old playmaker continued.
“Kapag natalo yung team namin, medyo nakakahiya kasi most of the first six ng national team natin nasa amin. So sa amin, ang motivation namin is kailangan naming maglaro ng maayos.”
However, if the Go For Gold-backed squad was to win it all against a tough Cignal squad, Lopez bared that the team needs to do everything on a consistent basis.
“Pinaka mindset namin dito is para madefend yung crown, kailangan namin maging consistent sa ginagawa namin. Especially doon sa service receive,” said Lopez, a native of Santa Cruz, Laguna.
On the other hand, Cignal’s offense will be flanked by another two-time Spikers’ Turf Best Setter awardee in Vince Mangulabnan.
With Espejo expected to fire on all cylinders, Mangulabnan is eager to collect every ounce of help he can extract from his other teammates to aid The Phenom.
“Kahit alam naman natin na kaya niya makapuntos ‘pag gusto niya, for me iba pa rin yung mapadali yung buhay niya sa paggawa ng point para sa team with help of our other teammates,” said Mangulabnan, a product of NU.
For the HD Spikers to perform well in the Finals, Mangulabnan will focus on giving equal chances to each of his teammates. That is why the former NU setter will be counting on Jude Garcia, Ysay Marasigan, Rex Intal, and JP Bugaoan to embrace their respective roles.
“‘Di ko magagawa yun magagawa if wala yung iba ko na teammates to receive well and sa mga quickers ko na masipag pumasok ng zero tempo plus din sap ag fake ng opposite hitter ko.”
Mangulabnan tallied 32.34 excellent sets in the semifinals against the Sta. Elena Ball Hammers.
The Finals series begins on Friday, July 19 at 7:00 pm.
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