FOURTH seed University of Perpetual Help weathered a 10-point deficit in the fourth set before graduating Cindy Imbo delivered the killer blows in the fifth set to stun top seed College of Saint Benilde, 25-17, 27-29, 25-19, 26-24, 16-14, and earn the last ticket to the NCAA Season 94 women’s volleyball Finals on Tuesday at the Arena in San Juan City.
Down two sets to one and a 12-22 deficit in the fourth set, the Lady Altas never wavered and fought back with a 14-2 run to force a decider.
Perpetual still went down 7-10 in the fifth set, but Imbo delivered five in their 6-0 run for a 13-10 lead.
St. Benilde trimmed it to one, 13-12, from Klarissa Abriam’s hit followed by Imbo’s attack error before the Perpetual skipper put her team at match point, 14-12, only to commit another attack error followed by CSB’s Chelsea Umali’s hit that forced a deuce, 14-all.
But Imbo proved that she has the biggest heart inside the court scoring an attack and a Finals-clinching service ace to carry Perpetual Help back in the Finals after four years.
“Mental toughness,” said Perpetual Help head coach Macky Cariño after defying the twice-to-beat advantage of his former team St. Benilde. “Sabi ko sa kanila hanggat di tapos yung game wag titigil sa kakalaban ng kakalaban.”
Imbo finished with 32 points off 29 kills, two aces and a block including 14 digs and 11 excellent receptions to lead Perpetual Help back in the Finals since Season 90 facing two-time defending champion Arellano University in a best-of-three Finals series that fires off on Friday.
“Puso! Bilib ako kay Cindy,” said Cariño, who incidentally three years on this day delivered the maiden championship of the fourth St. Benilde in come-from-behind fashion against the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian College led by Grethcel Soltones.
Jenny Gaviola was also instrumental for Perpetual Help with 10 points, while Hannah Suico, who was fielded mid-third set, added nine markers as all Perpetual Help teams — including outright finalists Altas and Junior Altas — are all in the NCAA volleyball finals.
The Lady Altas willed their way from a 2-1 match disadvantage and patiently scaled the huge 12-22 deficit in the fourth set with a 12-1 run capped by Imbo’s back-to-back hits to take the set point, 24-23, only for Suico to commit a service error that forced a deuce but
Abriam also committed a service miscue before Imbo capped the fourth set comeback with a strong hit to force a decider.
St. Benilde crashed down from the top seed winning eight of its nine elimination games as Perpetual Help erased its twice-to-beat advantage.
Austero played her last season with 17 points off 11 points, four blocks and a pair of aces. Abriam had 16 hits and as many as 16 digs. Umali fired seven aces for 14 points, while Felicia Cui added 11. Libero Melanie Torres also played her last NCAA game with 29 digs and 16 excellent receptions.