Philippine Army outlasted Iloilo in an intense five-set affair, 21-25, 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 15-12, marking a winning debut in Pool A of the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference on Sunday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
The Troopers, who had the opportunity to close the game in four sets but failed, relied on the veteran trio of Mark Enciso, Benjaylo Labide, and Wewe Medina to fend off the hard-fighting D’Navigators.
“Okay naman, maganda yung ginalaw nila kaya lang nagkaroon kami ng errors sa service. Service yung kinulang namin eh,” said Army head coach Melvin Carolino.
“Ang daming service error, nung first set six or seven hanggang sa pagdating ng fifth set naminimize na namin. Gumanda lang yung laro ng team,” he added.
After an unsuccessful attempt to finish the game, the Troopers entered the fifth set with renewed determination and established a four-point, 10-6 advantage, courtesy of a Joel Villonson ace, in an attempt to put away the D’Navigators.
Iloilo failed to recover from there, despite multiple attempts from Deanne De Pedro, who brought the D’Navigators to within two points with an off-the-block hit, making it 12-14. Medina delivered the game-winning cross-court hit to seal the deal.
Enciso was the top scorer for the Troopers with 22 points, including 19 attacks and three blocks, while Labide tallied 20 points with 19 attacks in an hour and 57 minutes of play.
The returning Medina, who last played for the Troopers in 2017, showcased his all-around game with 18 points, 11 excellent receptions, and six excellent digs, contributing to the victory that put Army at 1-0 in Pool A, tying them with Ateneo-Fudgee Barr.
“Malaking bagay si Wewe samin as an outside hitter. Isa rin siya sa nagpapataas ng morale ng mga teammates niya, nahahatak niya sila,” said Carolino.
Army aims to maintain its momentum against Perpetual-Kinto Tyres on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Jerome Cordez led Iloilo with 15 points, including 13 attacks, an ace, and a block, while De Pedro, who was not inserted in the opening frame, finished with 11 points, including 10 attacks and one kill block.
Vince Lorenzo recorded 14 excellent receptions and seven excellent digs, while Aldre Ferrer contributed 14 excellent sets for the D’Navigators, who fell to 0-1 at the start of the tournament.
Iloilo looks to bounce back against Don Pacundo-DLSU Dasmarinas on Friday, also at 3:00 p.m. at the same venue.