Lady Chiefs secure Final Four twice-to-beat advantage

Mark Escarlote on Jan 08, 2016 04:18 PM
Lady Chiefs secure Final Four twice-to-beat advantage
Defending champion Arellano University outlasted College of St. Benilde in five sets to secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals.

Repeat-seeking Arellano University leaned on its championship experience to keep its composure under tremendous pressure from a gritty College of St. Benilde side to secure the last Final Four twice-to-beat advantage in the 91st NCAA women’s volleyball competition.

Danna Henson and transferee Angelica Macabalitao came up big for the Lady Chiefs in the thrilling windup that brought the crowd inside The Arena in San Juan to its feet, scoring the winning points to turn back the Lady Blazers, 25-20, 22-25, 28-30, 25-18, 19-17, Friday and climb up to second place with an 8-1 win-loss card.

“Maganda 'yung laban. ‘Yun talaga ang volleyball, makikita natin na parehas hindi bumigay ang team pero siguro medyo pagod na rin ang kabila kaya ganoon,” said a relieved AU head coach Obet Javier. “Ang bilin ko talaga sa team na hindi pwedeng balewalain (ang CSB) kasi isa sila talaga sa magaling na team dito e.”

Macabalitao, a transferee from Letran who won the rookie of the year award two seasons ago, pushed the Lady Chiefs ahead, 18-17, with a left-handed off the block kill followed by Henson’s sharp serve that Lady Blazers libero Melanie Torres failed to control to seal the victory.

The Lady Chiefs actually reached matchpoint four times before the last couple of plays with Christine Joy Rosario pushing AU to a 17-16 advantage with a quick tap towards the open back row of CSB. Janine Navarro equalized for the Blazers for the last time with a combination play with Jeanette Panaga.

Jovielyn Prado paced Arellano with 23 points while Henson finished with 20 points on 15 kills and five service aces. Prado and Henson combined for 10 of the Lady Chiefs total of 15 service winners, making up for their weak net defense where middle Shirley Salamagos accounted for the team’s lone block kill.

Salamagos scored 10 points while Rosario had a quiet outing with only seven.

Arellano for the meantime will hold on to its twice-to-beat advantage in a Final Four format. But if undefeated San Sebastian (8-0) hurdles CSB in the eliminations finale on Sunday, the Lady Stags will advance outright to the championship round with a thrice-to-beat advantage and will send Arellano, the Lady Blazers and the Perpetual Help Lady Altas in a stepladder semis.

In this scenario, the Lady Chiefs’ incentive will be cancelled out and will wait the survivor between CSB and Perpetual for a knockout match for the last Finals seat.               

Whatever the format is, Javier is undaunted.

“Sabi ko nga sa team ko, ‘Kung maide-defend talaga natin ang title kahit anong format pa ang ibigay sa atin ngayon. Gawan natin ng paraan. Mas maganda nga yung pinaghihirapan natin yung panalo,’” he said.  

The Lady Blazers fell to 6-2 slate tied with Perpetual despite a season-high 27-point effort by Navarro. 

Meanwhile, Perpetual Help avoided a shutout after its men’s and juniors squad bowed down to Emilio Aguinaldo College earlier when the Lady Altas swept the Lady Generals, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23, to improve to 6-2 record.

It took Perpetual only an hour to dispose EAC behind Lourdes Clemente’s 16 points and Jamela Suyat’s 15 markers.

The win avenged Perpetual’s straight-set loss to the Generals in the men’s division and a five-set setback in the juniors play. Both the Altas and Junior Altas were erstwhile undefeated. 

The Lady Generals closed their season with a 3-6 card tied with San Beda.

 

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