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NCBA survives Mapuan barrage; still unbeaten

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The National College of Business and Arts Wildcats continued their hot start to the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference after knocking out the Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals in four heated sets 24-26, 25-20, 26-24, 25-21 in the FilOil Flying-V Arena.

After drowning in the dying moments of the first set, the Wildcats regrouped and convincingly took the second set with efficient offense and steady floor defense. The match got a lot stiffer again in the third set, but NCBA had a response.

Down 16-18 late in the third stanza, after back-to-back Philip Bagalay back row kills, the NCBA defense adjusted and forced consecutive errors to tie the set at 18. They later took the lead after timely kills from PJ Domingo and Reyson Fuentes, 20-18. Bagalay kept his Cardinals in the game with resounding counter-attacks and, coupled with two NCBA errors, Mapua wound up in a 23-all deadlock. In the final stretches of the match, Mapua surrendered an error, giving NCBA first crack at set point. Mapua guest player, Neil Flores countered with a cross-court hit, but a missed set again handed NCBA set point, 25-24. After a long rally, Edwin Tolentino finished an open hit play and the set with NCBA up, two sets to one.

In the final set, the Cardinals’ floor defense availed their offense plenty of easy looks that led to a hefty 20-16 advantage. However, things began to fall apart for the Cardinals after NCBA called for time. The Wildcats rifled off a staggering 9-1 blitz that gave them the match. Not even two Mapua timeouts could stop the NCBA assault. After remaining dormant for a good stretch, Reyson Fuentes came alive in the final two points of the match through resounding blocks.

The three-time Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletic Association (UCLAA) champs got a huge boost from its guest players, NU’s Reyson Fuentes and Edwin Tolentino. The former NU team captain provided the offense for the Wildcats, topping their scoring order with 19 points while middle blocker, Reyson Fuentes was an imposing presence at the net the entire match with his 12 points and six block kills.

The Cardinals received a virtuoso effort from Philip Bagalay, who dropped a game-high 21 points, but became predictable down the stretch of the match. Middle blocker, Anjo Pertierra contributed 11 points, while guest player, Neil Flores, put in ten points.

NCBA Head Coach Ernesto Balubar revealed after the match that, unlike the media, he was unsurprised of his team’s hot start. “Kahit hindi kami napupunuod ng mga tao sa mga liga na tulad ng NCAA at UAAP, nakakalaban naman ‘yung mga team na ‘yon sa ibang liga. In fact, sa Inter-Col sa Baguio, natalo namin ‘yung La Salle sa semis in straight sets bago matalo sa Adamson in the next round.”

NCBA will have a tough time retaining its blistering start when it faces another 2-0 squad, NU Bulldogs, on Thursday, July 29. The Cardinals have a tougher bill with the defending NCAA Champions, EAC Generals, standing in the way of their first win on Monday, July 27.

The Scores

NCBA (3) – Tolentino 19, Fuentes 12, Domingo 10, Valenzuela 10, Canlas 6, Vicente 4, Nidua 4, Oclima C. 3, Oclima R. 0, Escobido (L)

MIT (1) – Bagalay 21, Pertierra 11, Flores 10, Bermejo 8, Damian 6, Ocampo 3, Evangelista 2, Navera 1, Canlas (L)

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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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