HD Spikers in semifinals unscathed

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THE fans were back roaring and so did the Cignal HD Spikers who extended their streak with a 25-14, 25-9, 25-14 rout of BaliPure to clinch the first semifinals berth in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference on Monday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

The HD Spikers did everything they did right in sweeping the Group A preliminaries as they shrugged off an early skirmish to dominate the Purest Water Defenders with awesome spiking and superb blocking, court coverage, digging, tipping and serving.

Top scorer Ces Molina credited their remarkable surge to the degree of confidence and belief that they have for each other and in the system.

“It’s all about trust to each other and in the whole process [of the team],” said Molina, who unleashed 11 attack points for a 12-hit output in the 69-minute match that marked the return of the fans to the league’s home in San Juan since the 2019 finals between Creamline and Petro Gazz.

They screamed as one in the early going marked by fierce exchanges although the roars became subdued when the HD Spikers started to reassert their might and will midway through the opening set and throughout the 69-minute encounter.

“I feel proud (of this team). What we have worked for is already bearing fruit,” Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos said. “But of course, we still have a lot to improve.”

Roselyn Doria added 11 points, Ria Meneses dominated the net with her power tips and four block points for a nine-point production while Angeli Araneta and Rachel Anne Daquis put in eight and seven points, respectively, for the HD Spikers, who could only post one win in nine games and placed last in the league’s pro inaugurals under the bubble setup in Ilocos Norte last year.

This time, they’re unbeaten in five games with Cignal looking solid and in control as they gear against winner of the Choco Mucho-PLDT clash in the other quarters pairing of the league organized by Sports Vision.

So overpowering were the HD Spikers that they produced 40 attack points against the Water Defenders’ 17-attack output and finished with nine blocks, seven more than their rivals. They also pounced on BaliPure’s faulty reception and scored six aces in a match that also drew the attendance of cage legend and Philippine Sports commissioner Ramon Fernandez and celebrity Vice Ganda, herself a volley enthusiast.

Janine Marciano’s five-point game proved to be the best for BaliPure, which drew three points apiece from Patty Orendain and Norielle Ipac while Bernadette Flora, Jhoana Maraguinot and Gen Casugod struggled for two points apiece.

BaliPure Coach Rommel Abella used every trick in the book to motivate his wards but the HD Spikers proved just too powerful, too cohesive to be rattled off a bit.

The loss dropped the Water Defenders, who finished fourth in Group B, to the consolation pool.

Meantime, Choco Mucho and Petro Gazz try to step up their respective semis drive as they battle BaliPure and F2 Logistics today in their side of the quarters faceoffs, also at the San Juan arena.

The Flying Titans and the Angels need only to win once to join the HD Spikers in the Final Four. But the Water Defenders and the Cargo Movers are both coming into their 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. missions, respectively, ready to stall their rivals’ bid and force a pair of sudden deaths.

Both matches will be telecast live on One Sports and One Sports Plus and on social media platforms Cignal Play, Gigaplay, KUMU and pvl.ph.

Bannered by the league’s leading scorer Kat Tolentino (18 points), the Flying Titans, who finished second to the Cignal HD Spikers in Group A in prelims, brace for a tough outing against the PLDT Power Hitters, who wound up No. 3 in Group B on a team built around Mika Reyes, Dell Palomata, Toni Rose Basas and Joy Soyud.

A tougher duel looms in the Petro Gazz-F2 Logistics encounter with the Angels, the No. 2 placers in Group B, needing to draw the best from Grethcel Soltones, MJ Phillips, Aiza Pontillas, Nicole Tiamzon and Jonah Sabeta as they slug it out with the Champion’s League titlists Cargo Movers, led by Kim Dy, Majoy Baron, Aby Maraño, Ara Galang and comebacking ace setter Kim Fajardo.