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Revitalized San Sebastian sends Finals to rubber match

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After two horrific efforts at the start of the NCAA Finals, the San Sebastian College – Recoletos Lady Stags that swept the elimination round have finally shown up and handled the College Saint Benilde Lady Blazers in four sets 25-22, 25-19, 26-28, 25-23 at the FilOil Flyint V Centre, earlier today.

Criticized for relying too much on two-time MVP Grethcel Soltones for the past few matches, the rest of the Lady Stags made the difference in their first Finals triumph.

San Sebastian led by as much as six, 20-14, in the first set, but CSB nearly snatched the set after taking a 21-20 advantage. The Lady Stags sealed the set through attacks from Soltones and middle blocker Katherine Villegas. Keeping up their stellar defensive effort, the Lady Stags built an early lead in the following frame and coasted to 2-0 advantage.

With the Lady Stags still leading the third set, 14-12, CSB made a resounding push. Sparking a 4-0 run, middle blocker Ranya Musa scored five points down the stretch and allowed CSB to force a deuce. The Lady Blazers eventually took the set after a Lady Stags’ error and a Jeanette Panaga kill.

The Lady Stags again had CSB reeling, leading the fourth set 22-18 late after clutch contributions off the bench from Dangie Encarnacion. Benilde, however, still managed to break even after two SSC errors then two kills from Panaga. After a timeout, San Sebastian scrambled points and took first crack at match point, 24-23. Soltones then tied the bow on the win, crushing a cross-court hit.

Soltones managed a match-high 31 points. Villegas had 11, while Nikka Dalisay and Joyce Sta Rita had eight each.

“Sabi ko sa kanila kailangan gustuhin nila. Noong huling dalawang laro namin, parang naging kampante. Hindi dapat ganoon. Siguro kailangan namin magipit talaga para lumabas ang laro namin,” said SSC head coach Roger Gorayeb.

Janine Navarro led the Lady Blazers with 16 points, while twin towers Panaga and Musa had 13 each.

The deciding match will be on Thursday, 3:30 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The Scores

SSC (3) – Soltones 31, Villegas 11, Dalisay 8, Sta. Rita 8, Encarnacion 6, Lim 6, Eroa (L)

CSB (1) – Navarro 16, Panaga 13, Musa 13, Cheng 5, Daguil 5, Santillan 2, Austero 1, Dolorito 1, Ventura 1, Borrero 0, Lim 0, Torres (L)

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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