University of Santo Tomas seized the early lead in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Reinforced Conference with an all-Filipino crew, holding off Coast Guard in the third set for a 25-16, 25-10, 25-23 victory at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Monday.
Skipper Pam Lastimosa came back from a 10-month long layoff due to injury to fire seven points while EJ Laure turned in a match-best 12 hits after unleashing a 19-point effort in leading the Tigresses to a shock 25-15, 20-25, 25-13, 25-21 victory over Open Conference runner-up the Air Force Jet Spikers in last Saturday’s opening of the season-ending conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
“I missed playing so I went all-out on my return. But I’m still around 70 percent as far as my form is concerned,” said Lastimosa, who went back to training just a couple of months ago after being sidelined by an ACL injury late last year.
Coast Guard fought back from four points down midway in the third and forced a tie at 22 on an off-the-block hit. But the Tigresses regained their bearing and took three of the last four points with Laure finishing off the Dolphins with a power hit that ripped through their rivals’ net defense.
“They turned erratic towards the end of the third, allowing Coast Guard to come back,” said UST coach Kungfu Reyes, stressing the need for his wards to toughen up on defense and polish their reception.
“We have to improve on our first ball and polish our defense, especially blocking,” said Reyes, whose team is one of the four without reinforcements in the league backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter.
Meanwhile, titleholder Cignal TV held off Instituto Estetico Manila, 25-23, 25-20, 26-24, to join opening day winner Air Force in the early lead in the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Reinforced Conference.
Ysay Marasigan and new recruit Peter Torres struck for 10 points each as the HD Spikers used balanced scoring and a strong finishing kick to frustrate the Volley Masters, who lost steam in the first and third sets.
Leading at 23-22 in the opening frame and at 24-23 in the second, IEM, beefed up by eight new recruits led by the power-hitting pair of Keeno Franco and JP Torres, self-destructed with erratic plays, ending up with 27 miscues, nine more than the HD Spikers.
Though saying that his boys still fell short of the kind of play he wanted of them, Cignal coach Michael Carino still expressed his satisfaction for their one-hour, 11-minute romp, considering that his team came to the game straight from their four-day team-building activity in Alfonso, Cavite.
“We didn’t practice the last four days because of our team-building,” he said. “But I expect my players to step up in our next game against Air Force. We should always be prepared.”
With its acquisition of former UST standout Mark Alfafara, the Airmen showed a lot of class and firepower when it ripped debuting 100 PLUS, 25-11, 25-16, 25-23, in less than one hour, in Saturday’s opening of the country’s premier men’s volley league organized by Sports Vision.
Other teams vying in the league are Philippine Army and Champion Supra, whose core members came from the disbanded Sta. Elena Construction.
Later in night, Alyssa Valdez marked her return to competitive play with a victory, helping Bureau of Customs rally in the third set to subdue University of the Philippines, 25-23, 25-18, 25-22, and join Team Laoag at second.
Valdez hammered in an 18-hit game for her new team while Rose Vargas and Lilet Mabbayad backed her up with 17 and 10 points, respectively, as the Transformers pounded out the 70-minute victory to get their campaign going.
UP drew 15 hits from Nicole Tiamzon but the Lady Maroons failed to sustain their big fightback in the third with a series of miscues, the last spoiling a long rally and handing the Transformers the victory.