GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Blazers’ breakthrough NCAA title
Mark Escarlote on Jun 05, 2020 04:29 PM
John Vic De Guzman vowed to return for his fifth and last year in the NCAA after College of St. Benilde was shown the exit door following a stinging five-set defeat at the hands of University of Perpetual Help in the Final Four of Season 91.
He promised glory.
The Blazers were reduced to mere spectators that year as they watched their women’s team write history by claiming its first volleyball title in four games against a thrice-to-beat opponent.
De Guzman and the rest of the Blazers promised that in Season 92, they will be the ones celebrating the championship on the court.
However, the promise of a good season turned sour early when CSB opened the tournament with a bitter straight-sets defeat to the same squad that booted them out of the semis in 2016.
But it didn’t dampen the Blazers' goal of bringing honor to the Taft-based squad.
The squad used that defeat as fuel to their burning desire for glory.
CSB banked on De Guzman, Isaah Arda, Ron Jordan and Francis Basilan with Mark Deximo orchestrated the flow of their offense as the Blazers crushed their next eight opponents in the elimination round.
Closing the elims with an 8-1 win-loss record, CSB was on another collision course with the then defending champion Altas in a playoff for the Final Four top seed.
The Blazers got their payback as they whipped Perpetual into submission in three sets.
With momentum on its side, CSB sliced through Arellano University in straight sets to earn a seat into the best-of-three Finals and the right to challenge Perpetual for the throne.
For the Blazers facing their semis tormentors the year before opened old wounds.
Wounds that can only be healed by vengeance.
Game 1 was all CSB.
De Guzman had his way around the defense of the Altas, scoring 19 points including a 16-of-28 spiking clip, while Basilan took care of business at the net as he shut down Perpetual's spikers with four of CSB’s nine kill blocks.
On that same day, the Blazers witnessed their women’s team lose its title in the stepladder semifinals.
It only pushed CSB’s determination to capture the championship.
In Game 2, the Blazers encountered a different Altas squad.
With its back against the wall, Perpetual gave CSB a scare when it took the second and third sets after yielding the first frame. The Altas made the Blazers know that they’re not giving up their reign that easy.
CSB recovered in the fourth frame and forged a deciding set.
The Blazers saw themselves in a difficult situation when they trailed by five, 7-12.
“Walang imposible sanay tayong pina-practice ‘to,” De Guzman reminded his team. “’Apply lang natin ‘yan. Magtiwala lang tayo sa isa’t isa. Sanay tayo sa ganito. Nagsakripisyo tayo sa ganito. Nagpakapagod tayo para rito. Kukunin natin ‘to.”
The team captain’s words breathed new life to his team, which mounted a counter offensive to tie the frame at 13.
De Guzman saved a match point as the two squads went neck-and-neck in the mad dash to the finish.
CSB saved another match point for its final run and capped it off with Arda’s off the block hit as the Blazers finally ended their long wait to raise the championship trophy.
“Talagang pinaghirapan namin ito. Personally, ito ang frustration ko simula nung college pa na di namin nakuha,” said CSB coach Arnold Laniog, whose squad finished runner-up to Emilio Aguinaldo College in Season 90.
De Guzman, in his last duty for the green and white, posted 28 points including 26 kills.
Looking back, their journey to the throne started that fateful day when they walked out of the arena with their heads bowed and hearts shattered the year before.
“Naging stepping stone namin ‘yun, nung natalo kami noon,” he shared. “Mas nag-prepare kami (after noon). Emotionally tinanggap namin siya. Ginawa namin siyang motivation.”
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