ARIEL Usher led the way anew as Cignal outduelled Foton, 25-20, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23, on Thursday to stay undefeated in the Philippine Super Liga Grand prix at The Arena in San Juan.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Hillsboro, Oregon unloaded 29 points, anchored on 26 spikes, for the HD Spikers, who fought off a late Foton comeback to secure their fourth successive win.
Usher’s fellow American reinforcement Amanda Anderson made 10 points while skipper Micmic Laborte added eight markers, drawing praise from Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar.
“They (imports) are very good, they are the heart of the team and they really want to help the team,” Acaylar said.
Cignal will gun for a sweep of the first round of the eliminations in a game against RC Cola-Air Force on Sunday and Acaylar didn't hide the fact that pressure is slowly building up on the HD Spikers.
“Nape-pressure din ako of course,” said the veteran mentor. “Hypocrite naman ako kung sasabihin kong hindi ako nape-pressure, of course we are winning so the management is expecting us to win.”
“Pero may mga ginagawa akong ways para hindi ako ma-pressure kasi once ma-pressure ang coach hindi na siya makakapag-isip,” he added.
From an 18-all count in the fourth set, Usher fired back-to-back hits to push Cignal ahead, 22-19, before clinching the win in an error-strewn finish.
“Yesterday we studied every rotation ng Foton,” said Acaylar. “Pinag-aralan talaga namin ng maayos ang mga set plays nila, my coaches really prepared for our plays.”
American reinforcement Lindsay Stalzer finished with 25 points for Foton while Jaja Santiago added 15. University of Arkansas alum Katie Messing chipped in 11 and Fil-Jamaican Kayla Tiangco-Williams contributed 10.
The Tornadoes fell to a share of fourth spot with RC Cola-Air Force on 1-2 cards.