PHILIPPINE Army spoiled Cagayan Valley's debut in the Shakey's v-League Season 11 Foreign Reinforced Conference with a 17-25, 25-17, 17-25, 25-21, 15-13 victory on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
Dindin Santiago poured in a game-high 25 points but it was former MVPs Jovelyn Gonzaga and Ging Balse that bailed out the Lady Troopers at crunch time with 19 and 16 markers, respectively.
Army now holds the top spot with a 2-0 card behind an all-Filipino lineup, although Cagayan was also forced to go without an import as Thais Pacharee Saengmuang and Amporn Hyapha failed to suit up because of the absence of an International Transfer Certificate required from foreign players playing in other countries.
"Naghanda kami na may import (ang Cagayan), lalo na sa blocking at sa service. pinaghandaan namin na may kargada pero wala kaming receive, wala pang communication at nagrerelax kami kaya (umabot ng fifth set)," said Balse.
Unlike in its breezy opening win over Meralco (25-19, 25-18, 25-18) the two-time league champions were stretched to the limit in a match that took two hours 10 minutes to finish.
With the count tied at 9-all in the deciding set, Gonzaga unloaded four consecutive power attacks before Santiago came up with a service ace to push the Lady Troopers to match point, 14-9.
Cagayan delayed Army's celebration as Aiza Maizo and Joy Benito worked together to give Army a scare, 13-14, but Balse shut the lights out for the Lady Rising Suns with a quick attack from the middle.
"Ginawa ko lang ang best ko para makatulong," said the 31-year old Balse.
Former University of Santo Tomas stars Maizo and Angge Tabaquero delivered 24 and 20 points apiece for Cagayan.