Cocolife weathered a furious late rally by an undermanned Cignal squad to eke out a 25-22, 25-21, 28-26 victory in the quarterfinals of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Serbian imports Marta Drpa and Sara Klisura were impressive while Erika Alkuino delivered the match-clinching block that sent the Asset Managers to the semifinals of this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu and UCPB Gen with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
Cocolife will face Petron in the best-of-three semifinal battle while the winner between Foton and Sta. Lucia Realty will punch a ticket to the next round against reigning champion F2 Logistics of this battle that also has Senoh, Mikasa, Asics, LGR and Grand Sport as technical sponsors.
Coming in as a replacement for American Taylor Milton, Drpa delivered 11 digs and four of the Asset Managers’ eight total blocks on top of 15 kills to finish with game-high 19 points.
Klisura, on the other hand, chipped in 14 kills and two aces for 16 points while providing the defensive muscle down the stretch together with Alkuino, who came up with a booming block off Rachel Anne Daquis that sealed the victory for the Asset Managers.
It was such a sorry loss for the HD Spikers, who marched into the battle without injured import Sonja Milanovic and head coach Edgar Barroga, who is calling the shots for the National University boys’ volleyball squad in the ongoing Palarong Pambansa in Vigan City.
They also lost spiker Janine Navarro midway through the third set due to injury.
Still, Cocolife head coach Moro Branislav found Cignal a tough nut to crack.
“Believe me, I like it better if Milanovic played. Cignal came into this match with a totally different psychology,” said Branislav, whose wards found themselves in trouble after Daquis converted a powerful kill to put Cignal ahead, 26-25, in the closing moment of the third set.
Klisura responded with a strong kill to equalize the battle, 26-26, before watching setter Acy Masangkay fumble on her attack that set the stage for Alkuino’s heroic block.
Branislav said this kind of character makes him believe that they are ready against Petron, a powerful team that is looking to win its first Grand Prix crown after three straight years of bridesmaid finishes.
“Yes, we are ready for the semifinals contra Petron,” he said. “The next two to three days will be very crucial to our championship campaign. We will prepare hard for them.”
Jeane Horton tallied 17 points while Daquis chipped in 12 markers for Cignal, who still managed to come up with a very good fight despite opening its campaign without a handful of players like Jovelyn Gonzaga and Janine Marciano, who crashed with a knee injury last year.