LIPA CITY — Go for Gold-Air Force found the VNS Manileño Spikers a tough nut to crack before carving out a 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 15-11 victory in the Champions League men’s inaugurals Monday at the Aquamarine Recreational Center here.
With the Manileño Spikers closing in a 11-13, Kim Malabunga’s kill put the Aguilas at match point before Mark Alfafara closed out the exciting two-hour, 11-minute contest with a block on Roniey Adviento.
Earning its first win in the three-team Pool A, coach Dante Alinsunurin knows that Go for Gold cannot afford to be complacent again when his troops shoot for a spot in the semifinals against the Basilan Steel Spikers Amin-Anak Mindanao at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Any team can beat everybody,” said Alinsunurin, whose Aguilas have only trained two weeks before the competition.
“We have a fresh start and the team which is very determined to win will reach on top.”
Alfafara had five blocks overall to finish with 19 points to go with nine digs while Malabunga and John Vic de Guzman each had 16 points for Go for Gold.
It was De Guzman who earned the distinction to score the first-ever point in the men’s Champions League, nailing an attack off a Jessie Lopez set.
A long-time Philippine team captain who was a part of the Southeast Asian Games silver medal-winning squad in 2019 that revived the country’s men’s volleyball program, De Guzman was delighted to have the federation-owned national league to get going.
De Guzman, who with Alfafara were used to be rivals with the Aguilas in the Spikers’ Turf, is making the most out of the opportunity to play under Alinsunurin in the club level.
“I’m very thankful for coach because he trusted us. What we are doing for our team will depend from him because he sees what we are performing inside the court,” De Guzman said.
“I’m so thankful also because despite the short time we are only together with the Air Force team, we were still able to jell.”
Morris Gavan led VNS with 17 points while John Benedict San Andres added 13 points and 16 receptions.
In what expected to be a cakewalk has turned out to be battle for the Aguilas, as Alinsunurin gave hats off to the hard-fighting Manileño Spikers for their effort.
“Although the result has a lot to be desired at least there will be an interesting competition. The most important thing, the level of competition will go a notch higher. We were very lucky we were able to recover in the end,” Alinsunurin said.