By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The National University-Sta. Elena is close to a prestigious 2022 Spikers’ Turf grand finals berth after sweeping the top-seeded PGCJ-Navy team, 25-21, 25-17, 26-24, during the tournament Open Conference round-robin semifinals.
After upsetting the defending champions Cignal HD Spikers during their first game of the semis, the young NU team is looking to make a lasting impression in the league after taking down another title contender.
Despite the talented and stacked roster, the Navy had led by former men’s national team spiker Jao Umandal, the NU youngsters accepted the tough task and were unfazed from the get-go.
Nico Almendras isn’t done impressing in the big boys’ league and followed his 30-point production against the HD Spikers with 16 points against the Navy.
However, it was Obed Mukaba who stole the show for Sta. Elena after providing the much-needed offensive spark when the Navy’s middle-blocking started to read Almendras’ tendencies.
The unsung hero of the explosive match contributed 14 big points built from eight successful attacks, three blocks, and three service aces.
“Credit sa players ko kita na gustong-gusto talaga nila manalo this game. Para sa mga bata ito kasi talagang ‘yung hardwork since first day ng practice namin, bumabalik sa kanila,” said Sta. Elena head coach Dante Alinsunurin.
Aside from the heroics of Mukaba and Almendras, superstar setter Joshua Retamar also continued his playmaking efforts and dished the game-winning plays in the third and final set.
Retamar finished the intense battle with 21 excellent sets, seven points, and three blocks. In just two games of the Spikers’ Turf semis, the upcoming setter was able to tally 43 excellent sets.
Sta. Elena will have one more game to finalize its ticket to the grand finals and will face the VNS-One Alicia tomorrow at 2:30 PM.