NU-Sta. Elena shocks Cignal in five-set thriller

Games Saturday:

(Paco Arena)

2:30 p.m. – NU-Sta. Elena vs PGJC-Navy

5:30 p.m. – VNS vs Cignal


Nico Almendras dropped a tournament-best 30 points to power National University-Sta. Elena to a come-from-behind 20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-10, stunner over defending champion Cignal Thursday night in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference round robin semifinals at the Paco Arena in Manila.

The wing spiker hammered a crisp 26-of-46 spiking clip and delivered four of the Nationals’ total of 15 kill blocks as NU-Sta. Elena avenged its end of eliminations defeat over the HD Spikers last Thursday that snapped its five-game winning run.

Nationals head coach Dante Alinsunurin breathed a sigh of relief after the two-hour, 17-minute clash between two powerhouse teams.

“We got the breaks of the game in the end,” said Alinsunurin. “I kept on telling my players after the first two sets that we just need to get our momentum going. Good thing my players delivered.”

Michaelo Buddin sparked the run of NU-Sta. Elena that broke a 4-4 deadlock in the fifth set before Almendras took over by scoring five of the Nationals’ 9-2 rally to take a 13-6 cushion.

Louie Ramirez tried to keep Cignal’s head afloat by igniting a 4-0 counter to get within three. Kennry Malinis doused could water on HD Spikers’ comeback attempt before NU-Sta. Elena closed the match with a defensive stop at the net.

Buddin had 23 points including 21 coming off kills and added 16 excellent receptions, Congolese middle Obed Mukaba posted 10 markers with four off kill blocks while Joshua Retamar tallied 22 excellent sets.

The top two teams after the round robin semis will advance in the best-of-three Finals.

Marck Espejo, who was bothered by pain on his Achilles heel, got 22 points anchored on 15 kills, six aces and a kill and laced his all-around game with 20 excellenty receptions and four digs for Cignal.

Ramirez chipped in 18 points while Ysay Marasigan and JP Bugaoan registered 13 and 10 markers, respectively, for the HD Spikers.

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