MANDALUYONG CITY – There are new champions in the world of National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Men’s Volleyball after Philippine Merchant Marine School dethroned holders Rizal Technological University in the winner-take-all match held Wednesday morning (March 8) at the RTU Gym. The visiting Mariners prevailed in four nail-biting sets to the tune of 19-25, 28-26, 25-23 and 25-21.
Cheered wildly by the home crowd, RTU methodically took the first set and gave the impression they were going for a walk in the park. That was not the case as a different PMMS side checked in for the second set as they valiantly survived a race-to-two after forcing a 23-23 deadlock.
The second set proved to be the turning point of the match. Come the third, PMMS’ character was put to the test after squandering six straight match points as RTU rallied after trailing by eight points, 16-24, but still held strong to take the set.
The Mariners would not be denied their date with history and their first ever championship in any discipline since joining the league last season as a guest entry. From a 15-15 standoff, PMMS pounced on RTU’s many errors with the RTU two-man wall failing to block a spike from Kelvin Balanga for the championship point.
Ronel Fortaleza got the nod as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Best Opposite Hitter) and was joined in the Mythical Six by teammates Al-Kristoffer Rongavilla (Best Libero) and Jannil Sulit (Best Setter), Jainor Sulayman (Best Outside Hitter) and Jemmy Entig (Best Middle Blocker) of RTU and Israel Encina (Best Server) of New Era University. Missicorro “Jhay-R” Libay was named Best Coach.
It was fitting redemption for the team after their debacle a year ago wherein they swept all their elimination round games before getting the boot in the semifinals. In the offseason, the Mariners entered the 2016 Spikers Turf Collegiate Conference and despite getting blasted to the high heavens in all their games, the team picked up valuable experience that they put to good use in the 16th NAASCU.
Other members of the victorious Mariners are team captain Erickson Chan, Ricky Gumera, Leo Pabillar, Ridwan Jajuli, Keyvin Premaylon and rookies Wisley Garcia, Yhantzel del Carmen, Levi de Vera and Raymarc Barandino. A couple of hours earlier, the Lady Mariners lost to the Lady Thunder in a similar four-set match for the Women’s Division title.
Wednesday’s win was also a payback of sorts as PMMS avenged their only loss of the tournament to RTU in their debut last February 6 in four sets, 22-25, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-12. Since then, the Mariners recovered and tallied back-to-back victories over Our Lady of Fatima University and Philippine Christian University followed by eliminating New Era University in the semifinals.
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