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Mojica’s unheralded play keying PLDT’s success

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From the start of the inaugural season of the Spikers’ Turf Men’s Volleyball Tournament, it was clear that the PLDT Ultra Fast Hitters were going to be unstoppable. Parading a lineup of what is arguably the best local men’s team ever assembled, there was simply no way that everyone was going to get ample amount of playing time.

In the first phases of the tournament, NCAA MVP, Howard Mojica was the odd man out. Fresh off leading the EAC Generals to a championship, it was weird to see Mojica benched through the first few games. PLDT simply overpowered most of the teams they encountered, but conceded really close games to other elite teams. They lost in five gut-wrenching sets to the Cagayan Rising Suns in the first round and were on the brink of another upset as they found themselves down, 14-9, in the fifth set against the fiery Champion Infinity Active Smashers. Luckily, Howard Mojica was ready for his closeups.

Mojica entered the court and scored four of the next five points for PLDT and forced a deuce. Though they eventually lost the match, his performance proved to be a watershed moment for the powerhouse team.

“Mahirap talaga ‘nung una kasi nga ‘di ako nakakalaro,” Mojica said. “Pero ‘di ko na inisip ‘yun. Basta pag pinasok ako, gagawin ko ‘yung trabaho ko sa depensa at opensa.”

PLDT swept their matches in the Top Four phase with Howard Mojica firmly in their starting six. Along with his NCAA soul brother, John Vic De Guzman, Mojica has provided the consistent offensive explosiveness and defensive awareness that PLDT needed to take them over the edge. In the past four matches, Mojica has reached double digits in scoring and his jump serves have been key in PLDT’s strategic serving. They’ve taken down the much lauded Cagayan Valley Rising Suns in consecutive matches and are now just one win away from the ST Championship.

Beyond their skills, it has probably been De Guzman and Mojica’s energy-generating on-court rowdiness that has helped their team the most. With the NCAA boys on the court, trash-talking and prolonged stare downs become common place, something that catches most opposing teams off-guard.

“Hindi na po bago ‘yun sa NCAA. Kasama naman ‘yun sa laro. Maganda naman po ‘yung epekto kasi pag nagiingay kami sa court, nabubuhat din ‘yung laro ng mga teammates namin,” Mojica remarked.

When asked about his matchup with fellow MVP, Marck Espejo, Mojica closed the interview with the same fire that he plays with during matches. “Wala naman akong kailangang patunayan. Wala ‘din naman akong pakialam sa awards [niya]. Basta kapag kalaban kita, kalaban kita at gagawin ko lahat para matalo ka.”

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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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