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Spikers Turf: Liberato, Army turn back Navy in 5 for share of early lead


Philippine Army showed nerves of steel in the crucial fourth set to turn back PGJC-Navy in five, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12 on the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Conference opening day, Sunday night at the Paco Arena.

PJ Rojas fired a game-high 19 points on 18 attacks and one block to go along with four excellent digs to help lead the Troopers to a winning debut.

Team captain Benjaylo Labide added 17 markers while Kevin Liberato chipped in 16 points highlighted by four huge blocks.

“Gumanda lang yung laro ng team. Lumabas lang yung mga hinanda namin na may back row, may block, may receive, lumabas lang yun. Na-apply lang nila yun lahat,” said Army head coach Melvin Carolino.

With their backs against the wall in the fourth set, the Troopers overcame a 19-21 disadvantage after Labide and Rojas connived in a four-to-nothing swing that gave them a 23-22 advantage.

Greg Dolor kept the Sealions afloat but Labide hammered one in to push Army at set point. Antonio Torres then sent the game to a decider following a huge block on Dolor.

Carrying the momentum they gained from the fourth frame, Army started the final set with a 4-1 blitz but Navy kept on answering back to prevent the Troopers from completely pulling away. Army eventually got its much-needed separation after Labide nailed a hit that put them at match point, 14-11.

Dolor scored one to keep his side alive but a costly error from the service line spelled doom for the Sealions.

“Malaking bagay ‘to kasi high morale kami. Nandun na kaagad, may panalo na kaagad. Maganda yung pasok sa amin ng win kasi opening game tapos panalo kaagad ibig sabihin tataas pa yung morale namin,” he added.

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Christian Marcelino led Navy with 17 points while Dolor and Marvin Villanueva had 15 points each in the loss.

Owen Suarez, who last suited up for Cignal, showed up in his Sealions debut and tossed 26 excellent sets.

Army will go up against Cotabato on Wednesday at 4:00 PM while Navy will take on Santa Rosa on Friday also at 4:00 PM.

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