The RC Cola Army Lady Troopers swept the final round of the Philippine SuperLiga (PSL) Invitational by defeating the Thai guest team, EST Cola, in four sets. 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23, Saturday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
RC Cola led most of the way during the opening set, but a kill by Jarasporn Bundasak and a block on Royse Tubino tied the set at 19. Tubino countered, scoring off the block to retake the lead for the Lady Troopers. Jovelyn Gonzaga then extended the lead with a block and a quick attack for a 22-19 lead. RC Col maintained their advantage, and a Sasipaporn Janthawisut attack error granted them set point, 24-21. EST Cola fired off two points, but Gonzaga scored down the line, handing EST Cola their first set loss of the tournament.
EST Cola came back with a vengeance in the second set, jumping to a quick 3-0 run before Tubino doused them with back-to-back kills for a 3-2 deficit. The Thais extended the lead to 4-2, but a Gonzaga kill and a Tubino ace tied the set at 4. That didn’t stop EST Cola, however as they then went on a 4-1 run to lead 8-5 at the first technical timeout. RC Cola was able to eventually tie the set, however, with Tubino scoring on a kill and Gonzaga notching a block to settle the score at 12-all. Tubino continued to bombard EST Cola scoring off the block and serving up an ace to give the Lady Troopers a 15-13 lead.
EST Cola fought back, however, and after consecutive blocks on the Lady Troopers’ attacks, EST Cola took the lead, 18-17. From there the teams traded points, with neither team leading by more than a point. Tied at 21, RC Cola finally found some headway after a Nene Bautista ace and a Bunag block for a 23-21 lead. Gonzaga then connected on a block for a 24-22 Lady Troopers lead. EST Cola’s Sutadta Chuewulim scored off the block, but a Daquis off the block kill ended the set for RC Cola.
Both teams traded blows early on, with Tubino doing most of the heavy lifting for RC Cola as she scored three of the first four points for her team. Army’s offense stalled, however, as soon as she moved to the back row. EST Cola took advantage of this as they pushed their lead to 6, 10-4. EST Cola didn’t relent, extending their lead to 9, 16-7. Unable to mount any offense, the Lady Troopers surrendered the set.
EST Cola took an early 8-6 lead in the fourth set, and while RC Cola attempted to trim the deficit, EST Cola would have none of it. The Thais extended their lead to 4 after a 11 ace, 13-9, but the Pinays were able to trim the deficit to 1, 14-13, through Gonzaga scoring off the block, while connecting on an ace afterwards, and Bunag scoring off the block for a 3-0 run. Daquis then tied the set after a humongous block on Wipawee Srithong. Back-to-back points by Nunag and Tina Salak put RC Cola ahead, 16-14.
RC Cola continued their block party, with Salak and Genie Sabas rejecting attacks for an 18-15 lead. EST Cola fought back, and after a 11 kill, trimmed their deficit to 1, 21-20. errors then became a problem for RC Cola, allowing EST cola to tie the set at 22. Bunag then broke the tie with a swipe, and Daquis scored off the block to take match point, 24-22. EST Cola stayed alive, with Chuewulim winning a joust over Gonzaga. Gonzaga then bounced back, scoring on a running attack to win the game.
RC Cola was led by Jovelyn Gonzaga, who was named the MVP of the tournament. She scored a game high 19 points, 14 off of attacks, 4 blocks, and an ace. She was aided by Tubino’s 17 and Daquis’ 10 points. For the Thais, Janthawisut led the way with 18 points, while Chuewulim and Srithong contributed 16 and 12 points respectively.
RC Cola head coach Kung-Fu Reyes credited the win to his players sticking to the gameplan. He also mentioned how his team accomplished its mission, proving to everyone that Filipinos can compete against world class teams if done right.
“Yung panalo namin went according to plan. Nag stick kami tumigil na umatake at umatake hangga’t masawa sila sa depensa. Sa amin naman basta ma-establish yung block, hindi naman ganoon kataas yung palo, so naaabot namin. Yun yung nagdala sa amin, yung block points.”
“From day one since nag start yung invitational final round. Hindi lang para sa amin, para sa Pilipinas din. With the right system, right people, right organization, basta walang politika, pwede nating talunin.”
The RC Cola Army Lady Troopers are now 4 of 4 in PSL conferences that they have joined. More importantly, they showed us that with the right blueprint, Filipino volleyball players can compete against international opponents.
RC Cola (3) – Gonzaga 19, Tubino 17, Daquis 10, Bunag 7, Carolino 6, Sabas 4, Bautista 3, Gonzales 1, De Los Reyes 0, Nunag L, Agno L.
EST Cola (1) – Janthawisut 18, Chuewulim 16, Srithong 12, Nuanjam 8, Boonlert 7, Bundasak 6, Pochareon 1, Sittisad 0, Yotpinit L.