Cignal overcame a strong La Salle-Ecooil challenge in the first set but faltered in the next two, securing a 26-24, 25-18, 25-19 victory to advance to the semifinal round of the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference in front of a packed Sunday crowd at the Paco Arena in Manila.
Jao Umandal fired 18 points, while JP Bugaoan and Wendel Miguel contributed 16 and 10 points, respectively, for the HD Spikers. Their scrambling win in the opening set set the stage for a dominant performance, showcasing their control in power and serves in the next two frames.
The one-hour, 32-minute victory positioned the HD Spikers for another title run after their successful Open Conference last March, where they achieved a 15-game sweep. However, the road to victory won’t be easy, given the strength of the field in the semis, toughened up by the presence of a Japanese guest squad.
“We’re happy to win. This game really mattered to us,” said Cignal coach Dexter Clamor. “Whether dikit or lumaban sila, basta ang importante ay manalo kami, kasi they’re (Green Oilers) a collegiate team, so they have nothing to lose.”
Despite some inconsistencies, particularly in the first set, the seasoned HD Spikers, who yielded 22 points off unforced errors, managed to overcome their younger rivals, who gave up 18 points due to their miscues.
Umandal also displayed his defensive skills, producing eight excellent receptions, with Manuel Sumanguid anchoring the team’s defense with 8 excellent digs and 9 receptions.
The HD Spikers, the only other team after the FEU Tamaraws to sweep the eliminations in Pool C, finished with 48 attack points, 17 more than their rivals. They utilized their strong serves to claim six aces while conceding three to the Green Oilers.
John Mark Ronquillo sizzled for 17 points but failed to draw the needed backup from the rest of the Green Oilers, who finished second to Cabstars-Cabuyao in Pool B eliminations. Vince Maglinao settled for seven markers, and Uriel Mendoza added five points in a limited stint.
Cignal joined Perpetual-Kinto Tyres in the Final Four after the Altas subdued the Tamaraws, 25-18, 25-17, 25-21, earlier in the knockout playoffs.
Despite their sweep of the Green Oilers, Clamor expressed dissatisfaction with his wards’ performance, citing some players’ lack of mental readiness. Looking ahead to the round-robin semis, he stressed the need to improve and prepare.
“We aren’t contented with our performance. Dapat mas maganda pa ang showing, so we will prepare more (for the semis),” said Clamor. “Some of the players aren’t mentally prepared. Bawat laban, bawat puntos dapat sigurado.”
What’s certain for the HD Spikers is that they will be the first team to test Maruichi Hyogo from Japan.
“We’re excited to play them (Japanese). Unfortunately, we don’t have any details about the team’s composition and how they play,” said Clamor. “But we’ll be ready against them.”