Defending champion College of St. Benilde bucked a slow, sloppy start as it turned back an upset-conscious Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 25-27, 23-25, 25-22, 7-25, 12-15, on Sunday to clinch its second straight win in the women’s division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Last year’s Finals Most Valuable Player Jeanette Panaga and Ranya Musa, both members of last year’s team that beat the San Sebastian Lady stags for the title, took torns and fired a game-best 19 hits apiece to power the Lady Blazers to their second win in a row and the solo lead.
It was also the seasoned pair of Panaga and Musa who wrecked the most havoc in St. Benilde’s come-from-behind 17-25, 25-20, 24-26, 17-25 win over University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in last week’s opener.
“Credit to Letran, they played a great game and we we were sluggish at the start,” said St. Benilde coach Macky Carino. “Good thing the players refused to give up and just kept fighting.”
Spearheaded by Mikaela Lopez and Glayssa Faith Torres, the Michael Inoferio Lady Knights surprised the Lady Blazers by stealing the first two sets and appeared headed to completing a straight set victory after a closely fought third set.
But Panaga and Musa stepped up and willed St. Benilde to take the third set, stay alive and forced a deciding fifth set that it eventually took.
In the men’s side, St. Benilde nailed its first win after routing Letran 25-19, 25-13, 26-24.
Earlier, the Squires trounced the Junior Blazers, 25-16, 25-19, 25-19, to likewise secure their first triumph.