COLLEGE of St. Benilde drew first blood as the Blazers beat defending champion University of Perpetual Help, 25-17, 26-24, 25-17, in Game One of the best-of-three Finals series of the NCAA Season 92 men’s volleyball tournament on Friday at The Arena in San Juan.
Skipper and graduating player Johnvic de Guzman led the way with 19 points, anchored on 16 kills, one block and two aces, all from the second set that saved the Blazers, while Isaah Arda added 13.
UPH looked to even the match after holding a 24-22 lead in the second frame before CSB saved the set point, followed by a de Guzman service ace. The Altas then committed an untimely error and the Blazers skipper capped the comeback with another ace.
“Syempre pinaghandaan namin ito. Physically, handang handa kami at syempre ang mental toughness namin nangibabaw at ang teamwork namin,” said de Guzman.
Game Two is set on Tuesday.
The Taft-based spikers avenged their first game loss to UPH and romped to their 11th straight win in the season.
CSB coach Arnold Laniog admitted that it was only late last year that he felt his wards' full commitment to the game after some of his players were done with their academic requirements.
“Kasi noong Christmas break doon ko talagang naramdaman na fully submitted na ang mga sarili nila physically and lalong lalo na mentally,” he said.
“Kasi noong nag-umpisa kami, medyo may sa bagal kasi ‘yung iba sa amin graduating kasi andami nilang ginagawa instead na mag-focus dito,” he added. “So noong natapos na ‘yun (semester) December doon ko naramdaman kasi anytime na nagbibigay kami ng instructions, any time na maglalatag kami ng game plan napi-pick up kaagad nila kaya sabi ko hindi na siguro ito bibitawan.”
Manuel Doliente finished with 10 points for UPH.
Meanwhile, in the juniors play, back-to-back defending champion Perpetual Help turned back Emilio Aguinaldo, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-16, to arrange a Finals clash with Lyceum of the Philippines University, which is armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage.