Cagayan Valley surprised Army with its power game and some rock-solid net defense and reception as it fashioned out a 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 victory to move a win away from clinching the first finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Open at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium yesterday.
Thai Kunbang Pornpimol unloaded with an 18-hit performance while Sandra delos Santos and Honey Tubino tossed in 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Perpetual Help-backed Rising Suns, whose superb all-around game wiped out the thrill and fierce exchanges that marked their two five-set face-offs in the elims.
With the Troopers’ top hitters clipped, the newcomers needed just 78 minutes to wrap up the opener of their best-of-three final four series.
So dominant were the Rising Suns that they nearly doubled the defending champions’ output in spikes, 45-25, set up by 33 excellent sets as against their rivals’ 22.
Cagayan also controlled the net with 12 blocks, five more than the Troopers.
“Maganda ang blocking namin ngayon, talagang pinag-practice-an namin ang blocking at kung sino ang spikers na babantayan,” said Cagayan coach Mike Rafael.
Joy Cases finished with nine markers, including three blocks, while Sutada Chuewulim, the other Thai backup, added six points for Cagayan, which finished third behind Sandugo-San Sebastian and Army in the double round elims.
The Troopers, bannered by a crew of power hitters, suddenly turned cold on offense with nobody scoring in double digits. Rachel Ann Daquis, Jacqueline Alarca and Joanne Bunag all groped for eight markers while Michelle Carolino and sister Marietta had three points apiece.
The Rising Suns imposed their will early then held on to take the opener before outhitting and outplaying the Troopers for a cruise in the second.
Army made it a see-saw contest in the early going of the third and kept it close despite falling behind at 13-16. Cagayan strung up three straight points and threatened to pull away but Army won seven of the next 10 points to close within 20-23.
But after the break, the Rising Suns rose to the challenge and took the next two points, the set and the match.
Sandugo-SSC and first conference champioin Ateneo were disputing the other championship seat at presstime.