In perhaps the best game in years, the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta Altas rode a roller coaster of emotions, eventually reaching jubilation. The Altas regained their position atop the pecking order, dethroning the defending champions Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals in five sets that lasted nearly three hours, 25-22, 23-25, 29-27, 22-25, 17-15, at the FilOil Flying V Centre earlier today.
Both teams traded close set wins to begin the match and forced a virtual best-of-three. EAC appeared to have control of the pivotal third set, taking first crack at set point, 24-21, after quelling multiple Perpetual comeback attempts. The Altas, however, had one more comeback in them. Powered by team captain, Bonjomar Castel, Perpetual climbed back and took three straight points to force a deuce. EAC took advantage twice but their own errors prolonged the set. Two of Perpetual’s off-the-bench heroes, Relan Taneo and Allan Sala An, scored the set-winning points off coordinated combination plays.
Graduating EAC open hitter Kerth Melliza starred in the fourth set, scoring nine points in the set alone. Consecutive kills from Melliza allowed EAC to break away from a deadlock to a 23-20 lead. Relan Taneo coughed up a crucial error and gave the Generals set point, 24-20. Perpetual nearly sparked another comeback after EAC surrendered two errors, but Melliza saved the Generals, converting an ugly set through a left hand swipe and taking the Finals to a fifth set.
After struggling the entire match, embattled EAC team captain Howard Mojica finally provided a positive spark through his serving. After three straight Mojica aces, EAC converted two more points for a 9-4 lead. The Generals inflated their lead to six, 11-5, after Perpetual surrendered two straight errors. With their ruckus crowd silenced, Relan Taneo pulled his team back into the match, fielding pressure-packed serves that scrambled the EAC defense. Perpetual tied the match at 11-all, leading to another long exchange. Blocks from Castel and Rey Taneo brought Perpetual to championship point, 14-13, but EAC’s Israel Encina and Hariel Doguna kept their squad afloat and even took them to championship point, 15-14. After a timeout, Castel drilled a thundering quick set. EAC setter Nicco Bihag was tagged with a net touch, giving Perpetual championship point. In the previous point, Perpetual had made a 1-2 substitution that put setter Warren Catipay at the service area. The substitution proved vital, as Catipay served a beautiful floater that, amidst the rioting Perpetual crowd, EAC could not receive, clinching Perpetual’s title.
Open hitter Rey Taneo was named Finals MVP after scoring 18 points off 12 attacks, five blocks, and an ace. Castel matched Taneo’s efforts with 18 markers off 12 attacks and six blocks.
“Before the match, wala sa mga player ko ang nakatanggap ng individual award. Ayan ang maganda sa kanila kasi wala silang pakialam. Their just motivated to win the championship, especially my team captain, Castel. They really just wanted to win,” said Perpetual head coach, Sammy Acaylar who bagged his 11th title. Along with Castel, libero Lloyd Baroy and Neil Ytorzaita played their final match.
With their captain having his worst match of the season, EAC’s Kerth Melliza and Israel Encina carried the offense. Encina scored a game-high 28 points, also his career-high, off 19 attacks, five aces, and four blocks, while Melliza managed 19 points. Mojica had even been subbed out in the second set for the first time in almost two years, but still provided 19 markers. Mojica and Melliza both exhausted their playing years.
UPHSD (3)– Taneo Rey 18, Castel 18, Taneo Relan 11, Doliente 11, Sala An 3, Abcede 3, Ramos 2, Catipay 1, Ytorzaita 1, Kasim 0, Kalingking (L), Baroy (L)
EAC (2) – Encina 28, Melliza 19, Mojica 19, Doguna 5, Rasing 4, Barbuco 2, Cilocilo 0, Garcia 0, Benitez (L), Gorospe (L)