Nationals make semis

September 13, 2022

Games Thursday:

(Paco Arena)

2:30 p.m. — Army vs. Santa Rosa City

5:30 p.m. — Cignal vs. Ateneo-Fudgee Barr

Unbeaten National University-Sta. Elena flirted with disaster in the opening frame before finding its footing to sweep VNS-One Alicia, 33-31, 25-17, 25-18, and secure the first semifinals seat of the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference on Tuesday at the Paco Arena in Manila.

The Nationals turned to their vaunted net defense to stave off the pesky Griffins, who looked ready to pull off an upset early in the match, and remain undefeated in four games for a hold of the solo lead.

Kennry Malinis delivered the goods for Sta. Elena, hammering all of his 16 points from attacks while Michaelo Buddin provided the much-needed backup in offense with 15 points.

Nationals head coach Dante Alinsunurin was relieved his wards were quick to adjust to VNS’ aggressive start.

“We got the win but we really struggled in the first set. Good thing we’re able to regroup and adjust in the latter part of the first set and from there we’re able to establish momentum,” Alinsunurin said.

NU-Sta. Elena had to mount a rally to extend the first set. A see-saw battle ensued before Jennegerard Diao put the Nationals at set point.

Malinis cleaned up what could’ve been a messy opening set for Sta. Elena with a tip.

It was all Nationals in the next two frames as the Griffins wilted away.

NU-Sta. Elena opened a 19-10 cushion in the third set only to see the Griffins come within five, 22-17. The Nationals countered with a 3-1 run capped by Leo Aringo’s hit to finish off VNS.

Nico Almendras posted nine points while Congolese middle Obed Mukaba had a quiet outing with six points for the Nationals, who had seven kill blocks.

Setter Joshua Retamar outplayed national squad teammate Ish Polvorosa with 17 excellent sets for NU-Sta. Elena. Polvorosa finished with 11 excellent sets for the Griffins.

VNS dropped to a 2-2 win-loss record at fourth spot.

Kevin Montemayor led the Griffins with 14 points, all from kills, while frontliner Kim Malabunga had 11 markers in his first encounter against his former team.

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