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PLDT hangs on late; wiggles past Air Force

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In a fiery back-and-forth of return kills, the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters squeaked past the Air Force Airmen in five tight sets 28-26, 27-29, 25-22, 21-25, 18-16 in the second round of eliminations of the Spikers’ Turf Men’s Volleyball Tournament at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

Both teams did tremendously well in scoring off each others’ services making every ace, block, and error invaluable. In the end, PLDT made up for the 33-25 error deficit by nabbing a total of 80 attacks to Air Force’s 69.

The first four sets had both teams countering each other’s attacks early, then waiting for who would flinch first. In the fifth set, Air Force seemed to have the match well in hand as a Howard Mojica attack sailed long and put the Airmen at match point, 14-11. However, Mojica made up for his error by scoring the next point which was then followed by a Mark Alfafara down the line hit and a Dante Alinsunurin attack error that put the match at deuce, 14-14. PLDT managed to reach set point multiple times and finally got the match off a John Vic De Guzman block.

“Naging problema talaga ‘yung mga errors namin. Ang sabi ko sa team, kailangan kami ‘yung mag-set ng pace from the start pa lang ng match. Kahit ‘di nangyari ‘yun, maganda na ‘rin na nabawi namin noong dulo,” said PLDT Coach Odjie Mamon.

UST’s Mark Alfafara dropped a team-high 24 points for PLDT while fellow Thomasians, JP Torres and Jayson Ramos contributed 16 and 14 markers respectively. Howard Mojica came in late in the fourth set, started the fifth set and dropped all of his six points in crucial stages of the match.

NU’s Edwin Tolentino garnered a game-high 27 markers for Air Force while National Team standout, Jeffrey Malabanan nabbed 21 points.

PLDT is now 1-0 in the current Top Four phase of the tournament and will face Cignal on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Air Force has the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns on the same day at 2 p.m.

The Scores:

PLDT (3) – Alfafara 24, Torres 16, Ramos 14, Franco 10, Pecaña 10, De Guzman 7, Mojica 6, Casillan 3, Malleon 2, Mangulabnan 2, Longavela (L)

Air Force (2) – Tolentino 27, Malabanan 21, Inaudito 19, Alinsunurin 10, Esteban 5, Lopez 3, Acojedo 0, Dacurong 0, Mosuela (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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