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Tiebreaker Times


Another year, another ladder: Soltones, Lady Stags back in the Finals

For the Lady Stags to move forward, they needed to look back at last season.

Like last year, the Lady Stags were on the verge of another dominant undefeated elimination round campaign only to stopped in the Finals by the College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers.

The Season 91 Finals upset still rang loud in the Lady Stags’ minds coming into their Season 92 rematch. Not only were the Lady Blazers again serving as mental challenge, but they also stood in the way of another San Sebastian sweep.

It was a rocky start for last year’s bridesmaids but the ladies from Recto found their groove and recovered to turn back their Taft-based tormentors 22-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-14, erecting another stepladder Final Four.

“Wala kaming naging problema sa skills o sa physical side, pero mental ang naging challenge sa amin kanina. Marami kaming ginagawang errors na hindi naman namin nagagawa sa practice,” lamented Lady Stags head coach Roger Gorayeb.

“Pero pinakita din naman nila ‘yung maturity nula kasi nakabawi nama sila agad. Pagdating ng second set, kita mo agad ‘yung desire nila to win.”

The first set came down to late runs and errors. The Lady Stags were ahead, 17-14, before surrendering attack errors that allowed the Lady Blazers to tie then take the lead, 18-20. The Lady Stags scrambled but their faulty passes led to easy Lady Blazers’ attacks. CSB took a 24-20 advantage and never looked back.

The second set began with the Lady Blazers keeping their floor defense stingy while open hitters Jan Daguil and Rachel Austero lifted the offense. But the two-time MVP Grethcel Soltones caught fire late in the set, dissolving CSB’s three-point cushion and powering SSC to a 21-18 advantage. With momentum on their side, the Lady Stags middle blockers – Joyce Sta. Rita and Kath Vilegas – took control for the rest of the frame, blocking and scoring to give the set to San Sebastian.

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From there, the match turned into a romp. CSB started well in both the third and fourth sets but fell to the rejuvenated Lady Stags.

For the first time this season, the Soltones scored 30 points on 29 for 63 attacking while Villegas and Sta. Rita combined for 22 markers.

The win bolts the Lady Stags straight to the Finals with a thrice-to-beat boon which Gorayeb refuses to acknowledge as an advantage.

“Kung iisipin mo kasi, kahit thrice-to-beat kami, twice-to-beat din ‘yung kalaban so wala naman talagang malaking advantage. Kailangan pa ‘rin naman manalo multiple times to get the championship,” the multi-time champion mentor said.

For the rest of the Final Four aspirants, a long climb up the stepladder awaits with numerous playoffs for seedings to be played.

The Lady Stags could have their next match as late as February 7.

Daguil and Season 91 Finals MVP Jeanette Panaga each tallied 10 points while Austero added seven.

CSB finishes the round with a 6-3 slate and await the victor of the Lady Altas-Lady Chiefs clash to determine their next foe.

The Scores

SSC-R (3) – Soltones 30, Villegas 12, Sta. Rita 10, Dalisay 8, Lim 4, Encarnacion 2, Guillema 2, Santos 0, Eroa (L)

CSB (1) – Daguil 10, Panaga 10, Austero 7, Musa 6, Enginco 5, Cardiente 2, Ventura 1, Dolorito 0, Lim 0, Santillan 0, Avila 0, Torres (L)

Written By

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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