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UST slays Cignal to cop PNVF men’s title


University of Santo Tomas (UST) unleashed a lethal weapon, slaying Cignal, and the College of Saint Benilde played true to form to emerge as men’s and women’s champions of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Challenge Cup on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.

Joshua Ybañez, only 5-foot-6, played the role of a David in UST’s lineup as he executed a high-flying, all-over-the-court act in the Tigers’ 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13 victory over the many-time Spikers Turf champion Cignal, which had won the men’s tournament inaugurals last year.

“I still can’t believe we won against the top team, Cignal,” said Ybañez, 20, who added the Challenge Cup Most Valuable Player trophy to his Rookie-MVP award in Season 85 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.

“But we won because of teamwork and, of course, our coaches,” added the pride of General Santos City, who scored 26 points in the two-hour and 16-minute thriller.

If UST had to dig deep to score the upset, coach Gerry Yee and Saint Benilde were tactical in beating the University of the Philippines (UP), 25-18, 25-18, 25-13, to reign supreme in women’s play.

The Lady Blazers, back-to-back National Collegiate Athletic Association champions, needed only 81 minutes to frustrate UP and complete a sweep of the 16-team women’s division of the tournament, supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, PLDT, Rebisco, Akari, Foton, and CBPI.

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“We joined the Challenge Cup to gear up for the NCAA, and we’re very glad we won,” said Yee, whose wards never surrendered a set in the tournament. “We’re all inspired and boosted ahead of the NCAA.”

The Tigers were no lucky finalists—they ousted the three-peat UAAP champion National University in the semifinals.

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“Of course, it’s unreal. These are literally kids, and their opponents are pros,” said UST coach Odjie Mamon, who also handles the men’s national team. “It’s part of our preparations for UAAP and the evaluation of our updated playing system style. And this championship validated all of our systems.”

PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara thanked all 36 teams—men and women—for participating in the Challenge Cup, the federation’s second-to-last major tournament for the year.

“It’s been an exciting close to three weeks of volleyball action, and I appreciate the enthusiasm of the athletes and teams who came from all over the country,” said Suzara.

Next up on the PNVF calendar is the season-ending Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge that gathers the world’s elite players in a brand-new and world-class five-court beach volleyball facility in the City of Santa Rosa, starting this Thursday.

Ybañez also claimed the First Best Outside hitter to join teammates Rey Miguel De Vega (Second Best Outside Hitter), Edlyn Paul Colinares (Second Best Middle Blocker), and Sherwin Umandal (Best Opposite Spiker) in the Super Team.

Completing the men’s awardees in the 20-team men’s division were JP Bugaoan (First Best Middle Blocker) and Manuel Sumanguid III (Best Libero) of Cignal, as well as Jerome Lopez (Best Setter) of bronze medalist VNS Asereht.

NU, which finished fourth, received the Fair Play Green Card in the awarding ceremony graced by PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara, secretary-general Don Caringal, national team commission chairman Tonyboy Liao, and Cignal president and CEO Jane Basas.

Saint Benilde’s Wielyn Estoque was the Best Outside Hitter and Most Valuable Player in the women’s division, with teammates Zamantha Nolasco (First Best Middle Blocker), Chenae Basarte (Best Setter), and Fiona Getigan (Best Libero).

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Niña Ytang (Second Best Middle Blocker) and Stephanie Bustrillo (Best Opposite Spiker) of silver medalist UP, as well as Lea Rizel Tapang (Second Best Outside Hitter) of third-placer Letran, completed the women’s honor roll.

VNS Asereht beat NU, 32-34, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 15-13, while Letran bested the Philippine Air Force, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19, to clinch the men and women bronze medals, respectively.

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