HD Spikers tame young Lions

Cignal HD picked up where it left off three years ago, dispatching Sta. Rosa behind its superior blocking for a 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 victory to kick start its title-retention drive in the Spikers’ Turf’s Open Conference yesterday at the Paco Arena in Manila.

Their vaunted power game surprisingly neutralized by the young but gutsy Lions, the HD Spikers went to their net defense to fashion out the one-hour, 38-minute victory, their 14th straight since dropping a match to Sta. Elena in the 2019 Reinforced Conference semifinals before men’s volley went into a hiatus due to pandemic.

“The almost three years that there was no league was a challenge for us because of the uncertainty,” said Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor, who steered the HD Spikers to the Reinforced and Open Conference titles in 2019.

JP Bugaoan hammered in five attack points and came through with three kill blocks while Marck Espejo added seven points and Wendel Miguel finished with six points for the HD Spikers, who scored 11 points off kill blocks against their rivals’ measly one-point effort.

But the Lions matched their fancied rivals’ 33 attack points overall with Jade Disquitado and Chris Hernandez putting up impressive games of 14 and 10 points, respectively, with the former finishing with six excellent receptions and five excellent digs.

The Lions even took a 22-21 lead in the third but Edmar Bono banged in a kill against two defenders to force a tie then Disquitado failed to get the ball over in the ensuing play and was called for a net violation right after which put the HD Spikers at match point.

Bonono, who scored all of his four points in the third frame, then finished off the Lions with another blast.

The HD Spikers also pounced on the Lions’ erratic game, scoring 29 points off their errors while yielding 19 of their own.

The ASEAN Games-bound Lions forced a 14-all count in the opening set but Rex Intal sparked a decisive 9-2 assault to steer the HD Spikers to a roll aided by two Sta. Rosa miscues.

Cignal turned it up a notch higher in the next set, racing to an early 8-3 lead and then the Lions threatened to within three, Espejo took over and led another HD Spikers’ 14-7 blast to go 2-0.

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