Philippine Army stayed alive, handing National University-Sta. Elena its first loss of the tournament, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, in Pool A of the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference, Sunday at the Paco Arena.
The troika of Mark Enciso, Benjaylo Labide, and Wewe Medina once again put in the work, lifting the Troopers to a much-needed win over one of the hottest teams in the league in the Nationals, tying them at the top spot with identical 4-1 records.
Army’s fate, however, still lies in the hands of Kinto Tyres-Perpetual, who are set to take on Don Pacundo-DLSU Dasmarinas on Wednesday. An Altas loss against the Patriots will officially qualify the Troopers for the quarterfinals. However, a Perpetual victory will force a three-way tie with Army getting the boot.
“Proud na proud talaga ako sa team na ‘to kasi yung preparation namin, nakita namin na maganda yung resulta. Maganda yung kinalabasan. Naglaro kami kung ano talaga yung Army,” said Army head coach Melvin Carolino.
Trailing by three points heading into the latter part of the third set, Labide took over for the Troopers and fired three points in a 6-0 blast to put his squad ahead by two points, 19-17.
Nico Almendras stopped the bleeding for NU, unleashing a cross-court hit but Labide once again came through for the other side with back-to-back attacks to put up a 21-18 cushion.
Labide committed a net touch which was followed by two-straight points from Michaelo Buddin, but Kevin Liberato and Enciso scored on consecutive plays which restored Army’s lead to three points.
Buddin trimmed it to two with an off-the-block hit before Enciso hammered down two down-the-line hits to finish off the game.
“Malaking bagay ‘to. Kumbaga, alas na namin ‘to. Lahat lahat napakita namin although may mga kulang pa, kailangan ma-sustain namin ‘to lalo kung makakapasok kami sa quarterfinals,” added Carolino.
Enciso fired a game-high 22 points on 19 attacks, two blocks, and an ace while Labide and Medina chipped in 16 points each, with the latter also contributing 13 excellent receptions and eight excellent digs.
On the other hand, Buddin led the way for the 4-1 Nationals with 19 points on 17 attacks and two blocks while Jade Disquitado and Rwenzmel Taguibolos added 10 markers apiece in the team’s first loss of the season.
Meanwhile, MKA-San Beda ended its stint on a high note, sweeping also-ran SASKIN-PCU Dasmarinas 25-22, 25-21, 25-23.
Anrei Bakil led San Beda with 11 points on five attacks, five kill blocks, and one ace while Axel Book had 10 points on nine attacks to go along with four excellent digs in the contest.
Meanwhile, Reynald Honro paced the Dolphins, who finished their campaign winless, with 12 points.