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Razor sharp Cagayan downs Air Force; moves one step to closer Finals

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Marck Espejo had another masterful outing as the Cagayan Rising Suns ousted the Air Force Airmen in four sets 27-29, 25-22, 25-22, 25-21, solidifying their Finals bid in the Spikers’ Turf Men’s Volleyball Tournament at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.

The two-time UAAP MVP, Espejo top-scored the match with 26 markers off 19 attacks, six blocks, and an ace. NU’s Peter Torres and Berlin Paglinawan paced the Cagayan offense with 15 and 11 points respectively.

“Medyo pagod pa nga niyan si Espejo kasi kakagaling lang sa practice with Ateneo so medyo hinayaan namin magpahinga. Binigyan namin ng bola ‘yung ibang players. Ang sabi ko nga sa kanila [players], nagiging masamang bisyo namin ‘yung pagpapahabol sa kalaban lalo na kapag sa dulo ng mga set. Mabuti na lang noong huling tatlong set, naayos na namin ‘yung laro namin,” said Cagayan Head Coach, Nes Pamilar.

Cagayan shrugged off another slow start; surrendering a 23-20 lead in the first set to let Air Force take the set in a heated deuce. In the following sets, Air Force held early three-point leads only to squander their slim advantages due to untimely errors mostly forced by the Cagayan blocking. The Airmen scored more points off attacks, 62-48, but they surrendered 29 errors to Cagayan’s 15 with the Rising Suns also netting more block kills, 18-11.

National Team standout, Jeffrey Malabanan spearheaded the Air Force attack with 22 points. Air Force’s NU player-coach tandem of Edwin Tolentino and Dante Alinsunurin contributed 19 and 11 points to the Air Force cause respectively.

With the win, Cagayan only needs PLDT to claim their match against Cignal later today to clinch a finals spot as both teams would have identical 2-0 records by then. Should Cignal win the match, Cagayan will still need to win their Thursday match against PLDT to ensure a Finals slot. Air Force’s loss, on the other hand, eliminates them from contention for the last Finals seed. Air Force’s last match comes on Thursday at the FilOil Flying-V Arena against the Cignal HD Spikers.

The Scores

Cagayan (3) – Espejo 26, Torres 15, Paglinawan 11, Intal 8, Santos 7, Pirante 4, Ordonez 2, Canlas 0, Gatdula 0, Ramos (L)

PAF (1) – Malabanan 22, Tolentino 19, Alinsunurin 12, Esteban 10, Inaudito 9, Dacurong 5, Lopez 2, Merza 0, Acojedo 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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