By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The National University-Sta. Elena drew first blood against the more experienced Cignal HD Spikers squad during Game 1 of the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference championship, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18.
After taking the HD Spikers down during their previous matchup, the young players from NU-Sta. Elena continued its stellar run in the tournament and moved on the cusp of taking the Spikers’ Turf championship title.
The Paco Arena once again was filled with oohs and aahs as a fiery exchange of offensive executions immediately treated the volleyball fans in attendance.
Nico Almendras, the man on a mission during their last clash with the HD Spikers, continued his mastery and played hero ball once again for the NU side.
The high-flying opposite spiker unleashed 20 big points built from 17 successful spikes, 10 successful receptions, and nine tallied digs.
Almendras’ offensive streak in the first set helped NU-Sta. Elena take the commanding lead that set the tone early for the squad.
The talented and stacked HD Spikers squad came back quickly and took the second set, 25-20, led by the duo of Ysay Marasigan and Marck Espejo.
However, NU-Sta. Elena stepped on the gas pedal and went beast mode in the last two sets, punishing the Cignal middle-blockers with their precise and on-point attacks.
Michaelo Buddin finished what Almendras started and came up big in the most crucial stretch of the final set backstopped by Obed Mukaba.
Buddin finished Game 1 of the finals with 22 points, three blocks, and two service aces including 18 excellent receptions.
“Thank you ako sa team namin, nag respond sa kung anong gusto naming gawin sa loob ng court. Sobrang masaya kami na nakuha namin itong Game One at syempre kailangan namin tapusin ito sa Saturday,” said NU-Sta. Elena head coach Dante Alinsunurin.