By: Rom Anzures
There will be no sweep in the NCAA Season 98 Men’s Volleyball Tournament.
San Beda University stunned University of Perpetual Help System DALTA and dealt them its first loss of the season in a five-set thriller, 17-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-23, 15-11, in the second game of the finals on Friday at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
The winner take all game is set on Sunday, 2:00 p.m. at the same San Juan venue, as the Red Spikers are looking to get their first-ever men’s volleyball title, while the Altas are aiming for their 13th overall.
Ralph Cabalsa powered the Mendiola-based squad with 19 points built on 18 attacks and a block to tie the series at one game apiece.
After losing the first two sets, the Red Spikers showed that they aren’t pushovers as they won three straight sets and gave the Altas their first loss since game one of the Season 93 Finals in 2018.
Halfway through the fifth, San Beda banked on their momentum and built an 8-4 lead following a strong kill by Ken Umali who finished with 19 points and 10 excellent receptions.
Newly-crowned MVP Louie Ramirez returned to the taraflex after suffering cramps and tried to rally his squad as they got to as close as three, 10-13, but a pair of off-the-block kills by Umali and Cabalsa ended the match as the Red Spikers ended the 32-game win streak by Perpetual.
San Beda head coach Ariel dela Cruz was proud of how Cabalsa and his young squad were able to stand up against the powerhouse that is Perpetual, and was optimistic that all of these experiences will help them not only in this series but also in the seasons to come.
“Actually lahat sila gusto ko mag-step up, lalo na yung mga rookies para yung preparation namin hindi lang for this season, (pero) hanggang sa susunod na seasons. Mahaba pa yung tatahakin nila, kaya magandang exposure to kasi rookie o first year pa lang sila, nandito na sila sa championship,” he said.
And coming into the do-or-die game on Sunday with only a day to prepare, the former volleyball champion from Letran hopes that his boys will be able to be in their top form to complete the upset.
“Malaking bagay yun, sa isang araw na pahinga. Pero yung training kasi namin tuloy-tuloy eh, hindi lang na-establish for this game until Sunday kaya sabi ko nga, paangat pa lang sila. So I hope pag-dating ng Sunday, magpepeak na kami at makikita niyo kung ano talaga yung tunay na laro nila. Sabi ko nga (this game) ibigay nila yung best. Wala na ‘tong bukas, isipin niyo, last na ‘to. Nakaabot kami sa Sunday, step-by-step lang,” he continued.
Renz Calayag delivered 15 points for the Red Spikers, while Justine Santos scored 12 markers. Team captain Jerome Lopez also put up 33 excellent sets alongside four points.
Ramirez scored 32 points on 24 attacks, four blocks, and four aces while also getting five digs for Perpetual
Joshua Zareno put up 10 points, while Jeff Marapoc and KC Andrade finished with nine markers each.