SAN JUAN City – College of Saint Benilde denied heavy favorite San Sebastian College a perfect season via a four-set victory, 24-26, 25-21, 25-19 and 25-13, to begin the Women’s Volleyball Finals of the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tuesday (January 19) at the San Juan Arena. The Lady Blazers also took away the erstwhile undefeated Lady Stags’ thrice-to-beat advantage, turning the series into a virtual best-of-three showdown.
The Lady Blazers used their height advantage to the hilt by putting up a tight net defense especially whenever Lady Stags team leader Grethcel Soltones was up front. The ploy translated into 10 points off blocks, including eight courtesy of Best Player of the Game awardee Jeanette Panaga.
The high-leaping Panaga also accounted for six points from serving to finish with a team-best 23. Also doing their share were the tall duo of Janine Navarro and Ranya Musa who both hit twin-digit outputs of 19 and 10 respectively, most coming from spikes.
After allowing the Lady Stags to barely take the opening set, it was an all-Saint Benilde show. By the fourth set, the Blazers raced to a 21-10 lead as the game was clearly taken away from the Lady Stags.
“We came from tough playoff games and that prepared us well,” said Coach Macky Carino. “Our school has yet to win an NCAA volleyball title so we are very motivated.”
San Sebastian swept all their nine elimination round games to earn a free pass to the championship series. However, the long layoff while awaiting their opponent proved to work against their cause.
Despite the defenses thrown at her, the talented Soltones managed pace the Lady Stags with 27 points. But her efforts went to naught as she lacked support from her teammates.
Game Two is set for Friday (January 22) still at the San Juan Arena. Game Three will be on the following Tuesday (January 26).
Meanwhile, defending champion Emilio Aguinaldo College opened the best-of-three Men’s Finals by winning in four sets over University of Perpetual Help-Dalta. Scores were 25-22, 14-25, 25-14 and 25-16.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Howard Mojica showed the way for the winning Generals with 22 points, capped by a thundering spike that clinched the match. Keith Melliza and Hariel Doguna supported him with 12 points each.