JEANETTE Panaga drew all the needed help from her teammates as defending champion College of Saint Benilde repulsed San Beda, 12-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-19, to move on the cusp of securing a Final Four berth in the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Rachel Astrero took the scoring mantle with 13 points, including two blocks, while Arianne Daguil and Ranya Musa added 11 points apiece as the Lady Blazers overcame a lackluster first set performance to claim their sixth win in seven matches.
Panaga scored all of her 11 points from spikes but her leadership proved vital for St. Benilde, which played like true champion in the last three sets.
“Sobrang bagal ng first set namin. Sa sobrang focused ng team ko, nakatingin na lang silang lahat sa kabila. Yung team namin, yung iginagalaw namin, hindi na namin napansin,” said Lady Blazers coach Macky Cariño.
“Iyon ang ni-remind ko sa kanila na alam natin yung gagalawin ng kabila, so dapat laruin natin yung dapat nating laruin. Pagdating ng second set, nagbago.”
The loss, their third in eight matches, proved fatal for the upstart Lady Red Spikers’ Final Four bid.
Now in fifth place, San Beda now trails joint third placers Arellano University and Lyceum of the Philippines University (5-1) in the race for the last semis berth.
In a duel of also-rans, Mikaela Lopez came through with 13 points Letran finally nailed its first win after six straight losses with a 22-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-13 tripping of winless Mapua.
Rookie Cesca Racraquin, who led the Lady Red Spikers’ opening set charge, finished with 17 hits and 12 digs while Nieza Viray added 12 points.
St. Benilde showed up the game with short hair, as the Lady Blazers are determined to rebound from last month’s five-set loss to the Lady Pirates.
“At least nakita ko na buo ang team ko. Siguro, motivation na rin iyon, gumagawa na sila ng paraan,” said Cariño.
St. Benilde still has a tough sked as it next faces Arellano and San Sebastian to wrap up its elimination round campaign.
“Yung Christmas break pa lang, sinabi ko na sa kanila ang magiging scenario. Once na matalo tayo sa San Beda, delikadung-delikado na tayo. Kung gusto nating nasa Top 2, we have to win against San Beda. Pero, hindi natin magagawa iyon kung papetiks-petiks lang tayo,” said Cariño.
“Yung three weeks na vacation, pinukpok ko sila sa training,” he added.
Jela Peña and Angelica Guardian teamed up for 23 points for the Lady Cardinals. Mapua fell in a tie with Emilio Aguinaldo College at 0-7.
The Blazers, behind John Vic de Guzman’s 11 points, took the solo lead in the men’s division with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-17 win over the Red Spikers for a 6-1 card.
In the juniors division, San Beda defeated CSB-La Salle Greenhills, 25-16, 25-20, 25-15, to finish the elims with a 3-4 slate.