ARIEL Usher showed the way as Cignal beat Philips Gold in a thriller, 15-25, 25-15, 25-17, 19-25, 16-14, to take the early lead in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix at The Arena in San Juan on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-1 outside spiker scored 30 points anchored on 27 kills and came up with 13 digs and nine excellent receptions to carry the HD Spikers in a fiercely fought match that lasted two hours and nine minutes.
“She is very coachable, she has a very positive attitude,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar of his prized import, who finished with 31 in the team's opening- day win over title-holder Petron.
The win enabled the HD Spikers to take on the unfamiliar role of leaders.
“Maybe the team ko is full of confidence, sa practice I teach them to be patient kaya naman sa game hindi sila nara-rattle,” said the veteran mentor.
The HD Spikers had the chance to close out the match in the fourth set, but one too much unforced errors enabled the Lady Slammers to force a deciding set.
From a 5-5 tie in the decidind set, Usher took charge for Cignal to take the upper hand, 11-8, but Philips Gold fought back to narrow the gap at 11-12 after an Alexis Olgard block on Amanda Anderson.
Rizza Mandapat brought the HD Spikers to match point, 14-11, but a Bojana Todorovic score and back-to-back Cignal errors kept the game tied at 14-all.
Cignal reached a second match point when recruit Fritz Joy Gallenero scored on a through-the-block attack then finally delivered the clincher on skipper Micmic Laborte’s soft tip from the back.
Acaylar, who steered Cignal to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the first season, was pleased to see his wards play as a team.
“Lahat ng teams malalakas, they have good imports and locals. But my team kasi during practice I just tell them to be patient and just enjoy,” said Acaylar.
Anderson added 18 points for Cignal.
Olgard had 20 points for Philips Gold while Todorovic, member of the 2011 US NCAA champion University of California, Los Angeles, chipped in 18 markers. Myla Pablo added 17 points.