College of Saint Benilde,National University spikers eye finals

January 21, 2019
Cindy Imbo
University of Perpetual Help Lady Altas top scorer Cindy Imbo will be a marked spiker when they battle the CSB Lady Blazers today. (Dennis Abrina/PJ)

ELIMINATION round topnotcher College of Saint Benilde and defending champion Arellano University seek to arrange a championship showdown today when they play separate semifinal rivals in the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Holding the twice-to-beat advantage after finishing 1-2 in the single-round elims, the Lady Blazers and the Lady Chiefs hope to capitalize this incentive and not give their lower-ranked foes a lifeline.

St. Benilde will take on No. 4 University of Perpetual Help System Dalta at 4 p.m., while Arellano will cross paths with third-ranked San Beda at 2 p.m.  Both games will be aired live on ABS-CBN S-A Channel 23.

This year’s Final Four has interesting storylines.

The last team to catch the semifinals bus, the Lady Altas will have the Lady Blazers, whom coach Macky Cariño steered to its only championship in the league three years ago.

The other semifinals pairing between the Lady Chiefs and the Lady Red Spikers is a rematch of last year’s title series - and will meet for the second time in a row in just one week.

Although fancied St. Benilde will enter the Final Four with an eight-match winning streak, Perpetual Help will carry a nothing-to-lose attitude in the showdown.

Cariño’s familiarity with some of the Lady Blazers which he handled a few years ago will come into handy, as the Lady Altas hope to avenge their 26-24, 20-25, 13-25, 21-25 loss last Dec. 4.

With Cariño putting an emphasis on setting as the team ranks only ranks in sixth place in that department, Perpetual Help hopes that graduating playmaker Necelle Gual, who played well in last week’s 25-13, 19-25, 25-21, 25-14 victory over Jose Rizal University, will fare well against one of the league’s best in St. Benilde’s Jewel Lai.

The leader in spiking and service categories, the Lady Blazers hope to sustain their winning run, as first-year coach Jerry Yee seeks to address some mistakes in their game to make it back to the Finals for the first time since 2016.

Arellano’s bid to jump straight to the championship round was stymied, as San Beda pulled off a narrow 16-25, 25-17, 25-19, 18-25, 16-14 victory that ended its foes’ eight-game winning run last week.

Needing to beat the tough Lady Chiefs two more times to advance in the best-of-three Finals for the second straight year, that morale-boosting win at the end of the elimination round will give the Lady Red Spikers the confidence and momentum despite the disadvantage.

Arellano’s only edge right now is having the twice-to-beat bonus, as another San Beda victory will put the Legarda-based spikers on the ropes in the Final Four decider.

The Lady Chiefs hope to shatter the Lady Red Spikers’ tough defense, as the Mendiola-based squad is the best in digs and receives.

In the men’s step-ladder semis, No. 3 Arellano and No. 4 Emilio Aguinaldo College collide in a no-tomorrow match at 12 noon.