Joshua Retamar delivered clutch aces to power Sta. Elena-NU’s five-set triumph over defending champion Go for Gold-Air Force, 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-8, to take Game One of the best-of-three Spikers’ Turf Open Conference Semifinals, Sunday at the Paco Arena.
Retamar finished the match with 23 excellent sets along with six points and nine excellent digs. He also converted three consecutive service aces in the fifth set to take down Air Force.
“Naglaro ng mabuti yung mga bata eh. I give it to the boys, talagang binigay nila ‘yung lahat ng magagawa nila,” said Sta. Elena head coach Dong Dela Cruz.
With both teams not giving an inch, the Ball Hammers found themselves at a one-point disadvantage in the fifth set, 7-8.
The tides then changed when Sta. Elena opened up its block party, which paved the way for Retamar’s timely aces.
With Air Force looking to extend its lead, Banjo Mondero rose up high to deny an airborne Ranran Abdilla. Krisvan Ponti then took his turn to roof the two-time Spikers’ Turf MVP.
James Natividad, who got blocked by Francis Saura multiple times in the game, claimed his revenge and rejected his former captain to give the Ball Hammers a two-point advantage.
Abdilla committed an attack error in the ensuing play, giving Retamar the chance to unload three consecutive service aces.
Ponti then slammed the doors on the defending champions with a block on Saura.
“Ang worry ko lang is ‘yung consistency namin during ‘yung course of the game, kasi minsan lamang na lamang na kami tapos nahahabol pa dahil sa mga unforced errors namin,” Dela Cruz rued.
Nico Almendras hammered down 14 attacks for 16 points to lead Sta. Elena in the scoring department. The reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year also tallied 20 excellent receptions in the process.
Natividad provided 12 points, while Mondero and Edward Camposano chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Air Force, who dropped its first game of the tournament, was led by Abdilla with 19 points built on 15 hits, two service aces, and two kill blocks laced with 23 excellent receptions.
Fauzi Ismail added 13 markers, while Kim Malabunga had 11 in a losing effort.
Sta. Elena will look to end the series in the next match, while Air Force will try and force a Game Three on October 15, Tuesday at 3:00 P.M.