Cignal conquers Cotabato, completes season sweep for Spikers’ Turf crown

Cignal completed a perfect run to the 2023 Spikers' Turf Open Conference championship after surviving AMC-Cotabato, 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 28-30, 15-7 in Finals Game 2 on Friday at Rizal Memorial Coliseum. Marck Espejo and the HD Spikers swept the Cotabato Spikers in the Finals series to win all their 15 games in the conference, only dropping a set four times in the tournament. 'This season is a redemption for us,' said Espejo in Filipino after emerging as Finals MVP with a 26-point average in two games. 'We're so happy because last time we lost to NU and it lit the fire under us this season. We were so eager to become champions again.' Cignal earned its sixth overall crown in 10 Finals appearances since joining the league organized by Sports Vision in 2015. The HD Spikers also redeemed themselves after losing a failed 'three-peat' bid last year and getting swept by National University in the Finals. 'This is what we're eyeing. We wanted to return to the championship game this conference and win again because we were so down after losing the last conference,' said Cignal coach Dexter Clamor in Filipino. 'We can't do anything but bounce back so we worked harder and the players and coaches helped each other. I think we deserved this championship after all our sacrifices for this conference.' After dropping the second set, Cignal was quick to get its act together in the third with Chumason Njigha nailing the timely hits including a net touch from Cotabato that gave the former a 22-14 lead. JP Bugaoan put his team at set point, 24-16 before Jayvee Sumagaysay saved a point for the opposing side. But Wendel Miguel nailed the set-clinching kill to put the HD Spikers on the verge of winning the title with a 2-1 advantage. Cotabato managed to keep its hopes of stretching the series by winning the extended fourth but Cignal, determined to end it tonight, asserted its domination in the deciding frame. Miguel took matters into his own hands in the fifth set as he scored five points to give Cignal an 8-5 start. Espejo scored back-to-back kills followed by two consecutive attack errors from Wewe Medina and Jau Umandal and an ace by Miguel to pull away with a 13-5 lead. Rex Intal's attack error put the HD Spikers at match point, 14-5. Arnold Bautista and Lloyd Josafat saved two points for the Cotabato Spikers before Njigha delivered the championship-clinching attack. Cotabato lost Umandal late in the fourth after a bad landing but Madz Gampong came to the rescue for Cotabato unloading five points down the stretch to reach set point, 29-28, before Intal nailed a block to force a fifth set. Espejo led Cignal with 26 points and 34 excellent receptions out of 40 attempts. Miguel, who was named as 2nd Best Outside Hitter, finished with 16 points including four blocks. Bugaoan also had four blocks to contribute 15 points. Best Opposite Spiker Ysay Marasigan had 12 points and 12 digs, while Njigha added nine markers. Setter EJ Casana dished out 30 excellent sets, as Best Libero Manuel Sumanguid protected the floor with 18 receptions and 13 digs. Umandal, who finished with 28 points, returned in the fifth but his presence was not enough to force a rubber match. Gampong stepped up with 16 points. Intal added 12 markers including four blocks, while libero Vince Lorenzo had 25 receptions and 20 digs. In Game 1, Espejo erupted for 26 points as Cignal drew first blood with a 25-22, 25-22, 28-26 victory over Cotabato on Monday.

Source: Philippines News Agency