Shrugging off a slew of errors, the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals fought off the young, thundering herd of Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in four sets, 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 27-25. The Generals remain unbeaten in their first two games of the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference, presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.
The reigning NCAA champions had a massive total of 33 errors that often halted their bid to overrun the Tamaraws. However, the Generals had a distinct offensive edge as NCAA MVP, Howard Mojica tallied 27 points off 23 attacks, three blocks, and an ace. His fellow open hitter, Kerth Melliza, paced the EAC offense when Mojica rotated to the back row, putting up 19 markers.
The first set was marred with the Generals’ nine errors, while the Tamaraws were stingy in giving free points. Fielding mostly rookies and sophomores in the starting six, the Tamaraws doused a late EAC rally and took their only set of the match.
A champion with PLDT in the last conference of the Spikers’ Turf, Mojica got his mojo going in the following frame. Mojica dropped five of EAC’s first eight points, but his team was only able to build a slim 8-7 lead with FEU countering their early surge. The squad from Recto floundered in the following stretch, scoring only twice, as the NCAA champs bombarded them seven times and erected a 15-9 lead. After the NCAA MVP sent the set into its second technical timeout with a cross-court kill, 16-11, the Generals let the Tams back in the door with Howard Mojica firing off multiple errors that trimmed their advantage to one, 15-16. The NCAA’s top scorer redeemed himself by powering through and winning the following points, to place his team at a decisive 21-16 advantage. Melliza put the set away, draining three of EAC’s last four points and tying the match at a set apiece.
The third set was close, filled with countless deadlocks. However, the squad from San Marcelino edged out their younger foes through plays utilizing their wing spikers. Melliza scored twice in a row and extended the EAC advantage to four, 18-14. FEU’s high-flying offense was grounded for the rest of the set, and the Generals cruised to another set win. In the final set of the match, both teams had their share of big leads, but each blew their advantage. The Tamaraws had the first crack at set point when Jude Garcia converted an open hit, 24-23. Kerth Melliza answered Garcia’s attack, and the proceeding FEU point to tie the set at 25. Jude Garcia sent an attack long, then EAC’s Mark Arias got a clutch block on FEU’s Greg Dolor to seal the Generals’ win.
EAC Head Coach, Rodrigo Palmero, admitted that he still struggles to reign in his team when they lead by a substantial margin. “Medyo mayabang kasi minsan ‘yung mga player ko kaya medyo nahahabol kami kahit lumamang kami ng malaki. Ang sinasabi ko lang sa kanila hindi naman kami ganoong kalakas kaya walang oras para mag-relax o magyabang.”
Going for their third win in a row, EAC faces off against NCAA rival, Mapua Cardinals on Monday, July 27, while FEU looks to win its first matches when it locks horns with the UE Red Warriors also on July 27.
EAC (3) – Mojica 27, Melliza 19, Encina 9, Arias 6, Pagtalunan 5, Doguna 4, Cilocilo 1, Mangaring (L), Gorospe (L)
FEU (1) – Garcia 14, Bugaoan 14, Dolor 8, Barrica 8, Quiel 4, Navas 2, Suarez 2, Cayaban 2, Marmeto (L)