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‘Surprised’ Air Force thumbs tireless Navy, sets showdown with Cignal

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The Philippine Air Force Air Spikers survived a semifinals scare from Philippine Navy Sailors to win 25-15, 20-25, 29-27, 24-26, 15-12, and book their ticket to the finals of the Spikers Turf Season One Reinforced Conference at the FilOil Flying V Arena, late Sunday afternoon.

The Air Spikers capitalized on a fatigued Sailors squad, who had just played a five-setter the previous night, to advance to this stage. Rodolfo Labrador and Reyson Fuentes fired from all angles to let Air Force easily take the first set.

Nur Amin Madsari and Wilbert Sapida led the Sailors’ come back in the second set, as errors plagued Air Force. Both teams played a back-and-forth third set. With the score tied at 26, Rueben Inaudito blocked Alvin Cacayuran to give Air Force a 27-26 advantage. Christopher Senisan answered back with a quick hit for a 27-all deadlock, before Fuentes nailed the next two points for the Air Force.

The fourth set was close as well, and after Madsari scored through the block for a 23-all deadlock, Fuentes answered back with a kill to tie things at 24. Fuentes committed an attack error to give Navy a 25-24 advantage and Senisan forced a deciding set with a dropshot.

Labrador, Nino Jeruz, and Jeffrey Malabanan powered the Air Force to a 10-6 lead in the deciding set, but Madsari and Senisan were able to put Navy back into the game at 12 apiece. A two-touch violation against Razzel Palisoc give Air Force a slim 13-12 lead. Fuentes blocked Senisan for an Air Force match point, and a four-touch violation against Navy gave Air Force a win.

“Actually sa totoo lang hindi namin alam na may schedule kami ngayon eh. Kahit nga ako nasa Batangas ako kahapon,” disclosed Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo. “‘Yung libero ko [Raffy Mosuela] nasa Laiya pa nagswimming kasi anniversary ng parents niya. Bigla na lang napauwi ng madaling araw kasi nga may laro.” The coach, though, added that it was not an excuse for the team’s dismal start, saying, “Pero hindi naman talaga rason ‘yun. Ang laro, laro. Talagang lumaban naman ang Navy. Kung mapapansin niyo nung first set tambak namin sila so nag-relax ‘yung mga bata nung second set kaya natalo kami.”

“Dun nagkakumpyansa ang Navy, lahat ng palo nila pumapasok kasi kumpyansa na sila eh na kaya nila. Dun naman kami biglang bumaba na from the beginning of the set talagang kami ang naghahabol hanggang sa huli. Nag- relax lang talaga kami.”

With just six days until the Finals, Verayo hopes the Air Spikers will have a full line-up when they face the HD Spikers. “We have 6 days until the finals with Cignal. Alam ko naman competitive ang team ko eh basta kumpleto lang. Hopefully matalo ulit namin ‘yung Cignal,” he said.

Malabanan led Air Force with 17 points while Labrador, Fuentes, and Inaudito scored 16 markers apiece. Setter Jessie Lopez tossed 27 excellent sets.

Madsari finished with 16 points, all coming from attacks, to lead Navy. Sapida and Senisan chipped 14 and 13 points respectively.

The Air Spikers will face the Cignal HD Spikers in a best-of-three finals, with the game one taking place on November 21 at 3:00 PM. The Sailors and PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters tangle in a battle of bronze at 1:00 PM.

The Scores:

PAF (3) – Malabanan 17, Labrador 16, Fuentes 16, Inaudito 16, Lopez 4, Balse 3, Jeruz 3, De Ocampo 3, Abria 0, Avila 0, Tolentino 0, Mosuela (L).

NVY (2)– Madsari 16, Sapida 14, Senisan 13, Palisoc 8, Rusit 3, Kasim 3, Junio 3, Cacayuran 0, Encisa 0, Ajon 0, Tipay(L).

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