PVL: Air Force snaps Coach O’s perfect PVL run
ABS-CBN Sports on Jul 15, 2018 02:09 PM
The jubilant Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers flash the we-are-no.1 sign moments after sweeping the defending champions Cignal HD Hitters in Game 2 of the finals of the Premier Volleyball League last Wednesday. Head coach Rhovyl Verayo (standing 2nd from left, last row) and assistant coach Dante Alinsunurin (standing third from right) skillfully plotted the victory with last-minute revision of the lineup and crucial substitutions.
In dethroning the HD Hitters as the PVL Reinforced Conference kings, the Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers also halted Cignal coach Oliver Almadro’s spotless run in the two-year-old league.
Coach O swept all three conferences in the inaugural staging of the PVL in 2017, clinching the Reinforced and Open Conference championships for Cignal and the Collegiate Conference title for Ateneo.
This year not even the addition of Marck Espejo, his prized Blue Eagle widely hailed as the nation’s no. 1 spiker to date, could shoot down the Jet Spikers, who rode high on the powerful attacks of Bryan Bagunas, Espejo’s arch rival in the UAAP last season, to take Game 2 as well, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-25, 15-13, and the championship.
Bagunas, on loan from National University, did the most damage to Coach O’s attempt at capturing Cignal’s third consecutive PVL title and his fourth straight.
Just like when the Bulldogs clipped the Blue Eagles’ wings in last season’s UAAP finals, the fearsome attacker from NU was simply overpowering at the net and was made even more effective by getting full support from Air Force teammates Ranran Abdilla, Fauzi Ismail and Jeffrey Malabanan.
In contrast, Espejo practically waged a solitary battle in the fifth set of the edge-of-the-seat Game 2 of the best-of-three title showdown and lost in his gallant bid to extend the championship series.
Finals MVP Bryan Bagunas with setter Pitrus de Ocampo
Coach Rhovyl Verayo, without flouting league rules, added Bagunas, multi-awarded setter Jessie Lopez and NU libero Ricky Marcos to his lineup just before the semifinals began.
It proved to be a masterful stroke as all three played a pivotal role in the homestretch of the Jet Setters’ journey to the finals.
In Game 2 alone, Bagunas struck for 30 points, Marcos had 16 digs and 18 receives, and Lopez, relieving Pitrus de Ocampo in the dying minutes of the fifth set with Air Force tied with Cignal at 13-all, set up Malabanan for two lightning-quick middle plays to close out the match at 15-13.