Air Force leaned on its pair of talented rookie recruits Fauzi Ismail and Howard Mojica as it pulled the rug from under erstwhile unbeaten Cignal, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19, on Monday in Game One of the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Open Conference Finals at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
The power-spiking Ismail, a third year student at National U, unloaded a match-high 21 hits, including 16 on kills, while the heavy-hitting Mojica, a former back-to-back NCAA MVP, scattered 11 points to steer the Jet Spikers past the HD Spikers and closer to a dream championship.
“They’re a big addition to our team because (Ran) Abdilla and (Edwin) Tolentino are injured,” said Air Force coach Rhovyl Verayo, referring to the Ismail-Mojica tandem.
Air Force, however, will have to wait a little longer with Game 2 set on July 13 as the league takes a break to give way to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament beginning today at the MOA Arena.
A deciding Game Three, if necessary, will be played on July 16, also at the Philsports Arena.
Verayo said they hope toughen up during the long break.
“We’ll resume practice tomorrow (today) until July 13. Whatever happens in Game Two, at least we did our best to prepare for it,” he said.
Verayo said they were not bothered by the league’s last minute re-scheduling from Game 13 to yesterday.
“I received the text at midnight so I quickly texted the players that we have a practice Sunday and Monday morning and sacrifice their family day,” he said.
During the emergency practices, Verayo said they worked on their blocking and reception.
“When we lost to them in the elimination round, we focused on improving our defense and I’m glad we did,” he said.
Earlier, Sta. Elena Construction defeated Instituto Estetico Manila, 25-17, 22-25, 25-22, 25-19, to likewise move within a win from clinching third place honors in the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
Games on July 13
(Philsports Arena, Pasig)
10 a.m. – Sta. Elena vs IEM (Battle for third)
1 p.m. – Air Force vs Cignal (Finals)