After seven seasons, the Arellano University Chiefs are returning to the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Finals after stopping the College of Saint Benilde Blazers in the knockout semifinals, 25-22, 28-26, 25-23, Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Chiefs make their first Finals appearance since Season 86. Arellano was swept by the Perpetual Altas during that season’s finale.
“Sabi ko naman sa kanila, bago mag-start yung tournament, malaking bagay yung commitment nila. Sa Finals hindi natin kung ano mangyayari pero tratrabahuin namin yan,” said Arellano head coach Sherwin Meneses.
But just like their regular season encounter last January 29, the Chiefs needed to dig deep against the Blazers in every set of the contest.
“Sinabi ko sa mga players ko na maglaro lang. Yung Benilde defending champion pa rin yan kahit anong mangyari,” added the youthful tactician.
In the third set, Arellano were on the brink of the last Finals ticket, leading 24-20. Behind Isaah Arda, the Blazers kept coming back, surviving three match points. However, Christian dela Paz ended the game with an emphatic kill to punch their ticket to the final round.
“Nakuha lang namin sa tiyaga mas lalo ng apat yung gragraduate sa amin,” shared Meneses who was referring to Kevin Liberato, John Cabillan, and Christopher Soriano. “Sabi ko sa kanila, bigay nila yung 110 percent nila bago sila mag-exit.”
Dela Paz powered Arellano with 15 markers, 11 from attacks, three from aces, and one block. Liberato and Cabillan chipped in 12 and nine markers respectively.
Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian finished their collegiate careers for Benilde. Arda had a game-high 21 points, while Orian added 14 markers.
Arellano will face the Perpetual Altas in the best-of-three series beginning on Friday, February 16, at the Filoil Flying V Center.
AU 3 – Dela Paz 15, Liberato K. 12, Cabillan 9, Segovia 8, Lapuz 7, Meneses 2, Liberato J. 0, Esguerra (L), Blanco (L)
CSB 0 – Arda 21, Orian 14, Bacani 7, Basilan 6, Bautista 2, Magsino 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Rojas 0, Dy (L)