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Streaking Benilde takes out San Sebastian for first Finals win

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The College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers neared fulfilling their promise of slamming all of the teams that thwarted them in the elimination round.

Benilde inched closer to its first championship after dissecting the previously undefeated San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags in four sets 24-26, 25-21, 25-19, 25-13 and erasing their thrice-to-beat disadvantage in the NCAA Season 91 Finals at the FilOil Flying V Centre, earlier today.

The Lady Blazers seemed primed for a collapse after losing control late in the first set. But the CSB had learned from their previous collapses.

The Lady Blazers effectively clamped down on the reigning MVP, Grethcel Soltones, effectively, sending multiple blockers at the league’s best scorer and focusing on floor coverage. The Lady Blazers also halted San Sebastian’s offense through loaded serves, forcing the Lady Stags to work for every scoring opportunity.

Benilde threw down ten blocks to San Sebastian’s two while delivering 12 aces to the Lady Stags six. Their graduating setter, Djanel Cheng fed off their floor defense and orchestrated 25 excellent sets.

Middle Blocker, Jeanette Panaga had another fantastic match, scoring 23 points off nine attacks, eight blocks, and six aces for Benilde while Janine Navarro provided offensive support with 19 points off 16 attacks, two aces, and a block.

After the match, CSB’s head coach Michael Cariño lauded his team’s focus and mental stability.

“Talagang pinaghandaan namin sila. Mahirap pigilan si Grethcel kaya lahat ng oras na pwede naman gamitin sa paghahanda, ginugol namin – film viewing, sa ensayo. Naka-focus talaga ‘yung buong team kanina. Lahat ng paghahanda namin nag pay off.”

Cariño thought that San Sebastian also lost its edge after a long, one-week break.

“Mahirap talaga mag sustain ng focus kapag matagal kang walang laro. Kami naman, sobrang taas ng confidence namin given maganda ‘yung nilaro namin sa mga do-or-die,” Carino said speaking of their stepladder wins against the Perpetual Lady Altas and Arellano Lady Chiefs.

Soltones finished with 27 points but attempted a whooping 70 attacks to get there. No other Lady Stag had a significant offensive outing.

The Finals boils down to a best-of-three with Game Two of the series tipping off on Friday, 4 p.m.

The Scores:
CSB (3) – Panaga 23, Navarro 19, Musa 10, Daguil 6, Santillan 3, Cheng 2, Dolorito 1, Austero 0, Lim 0, Torres (L)
SSC (1) – Soltones 27, Lim 6, Encarnacion 5, Dalisay 4, Corpuz 3, Labiano 2, Sta. Rita 2, Guillema 1, Villegas 1, Crisostomo 0, Eroa (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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