Cignal took down the challenge of erstwhile fellow undefeated team AMC-Cotabato in a surprising rout, 25-15, 25-21, 25-17, to clinch the first semifinals ticket in the 2023 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference, Sunday at the Paco Arena Events and Sports Center in Manila.
The last season’s runners-up kept their lofty place on top of the standings with 8-0 while AMC-Cotabato slipped to 5-1.
“It boils down really sa preparation. Maganda kasi naging preparation namin this week coming to this game. And yung nga, given na sila ‘yung magre-represent sa national team, it’s really a good motivation for us,” head coach Dexter Clamor said.
Setter EJ Casaña was solid in orchestrating Cignal’s offense, finishing with 24 excellent sets and even scoring a service ace in the match.
Three spikers ended in double figures with JP Bugaoan leading the way with a game-high 14 points on 11 spikes and three blocks. Marck Espejo and Ysay Marasigan added 12 and 10 points apiece.
The HD Spikers made its intentions known with a solid start with Casaña making use of all possible plays in the book and getting everyone clicking on offense. Espejo and Wendel Miguel got it going even from the back row, while Bugaoan was solid in the middle.
The second set was a tighter affair, but Cignal turned to its net defense to mount a 20-16 advantage, forcing AMC-Cotabato head coach Odjie Mamon to call a timeout. The HD Spikers then settled for an exchange of points, but ultimately pocketed the 2-0 lead with an Ysay Marasigan.
Sensing momentum, the 2019 champions rose to a comfortable 16-10 lead in the third set. AMC-Cotabato’s setter Cian Silang tried to look for points with captain Jayvee Sumagaysay and Jau Umandal responding, but the lead was too huge, and eventually, another service ace from Marasigan ended the match.
Umandal was the lone bright spot for AMC-Cotabato with 10 markers on nine attacks and one block. Opposite hitter Madz Gampong followed suit with nine points, all coming from attacks.
Semis-bound Cignal (8-0) will look to keep its record intact when it faces another unbeaten team in the D’Navigators Iloilo (6-0) on Friday at 5:30 p.m., while AMC-Cotabato takes on PGJC Navy (3-4) earlier in the day at 3 p.m.