NU-Sta. Elena completed a rousing sweep to ascend the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference throne, taking down the erstwhile champion Cignal in four sets, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, Saturday evening at the Paco Arena Sports and Events Centre in Manila.
This is the second title for the Nationals in the league after they won the 2018 Collegiate Conference with the likes of Bryan Bagunas, Francis Saura, and Kim Malabunga.
With the championship on the line with a precarious one-point lead at 24-23 in the fourth frame, Michaelo Buddin finished off the match with a well-timed hit off the hands of the Cignal’s blockers to seal the title for his squad.
Head coach Dante Alinsunurin was proud of this team and said, “Syempre, sobrang thankful na nakuha namin this Spikers’ Turf (title). Lahat ng pinaghirapan namin mula nung pinabalik ko sila from pandemic, talagang lumabas na yung naging results.
“Pero syempre, every time na may liga, sasalihan namin para makuha namin yung kampeonato,” he said.
Eventual Finals MVP Buddin picked up from where he left off in Game 1 to pace the Nationals with 22 points on 20 attacks to go with 14 excellent receptions, while Season MVP Nico Almendras added 18 points on 16 spikes in this close-out match.
NU started strong in the opening set, taking advantage of Cignal’s errors late in the frame. With its blocking working in its favor, the Nationals took the set advantage at 25-18.
The HD Spikers, though, would not give up their crown easily as they fought hard in the following set. An exchange of runs ensued before Marck Espejo sealed the equalizer with a well-placed shot that the Nationals failed to return.
The third set was not that different from the previous one as NU fueled another solid start with its net defense to lead 21-14 before Cignal turned to its own wall to put the game within reach at 23-24. Buddin, though, had other plans and eventually put the Nationals on the cusp of the championship.
Season Best Setter Joshua Retamar was solid in setting up NU’s offense, taking in 20 excellent sets and even scoring seven points of his own. Kenry Malinis completed the huge threat at the wings with 10 markers off seven spikes, two blocks, and one service ace.
Cignal team captain Ysay Marasigan carried his team, finishing with 17 points on 11 attacks, four blocks, and two blocks. Outside hitters Espejo and Louie Ramirez pinched in 16 markers each.