Army marked the league’s opening day salvo with a stirring come-from-behind victory in the nightcap of the opening day of the Spikers Turf Open Conference 2023 on Sunday, battling back from 1-2 set down and upending Navy, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12, to join Imus in the early lead.
Nico Ramirez baffled the Sealions’ defense with his brilliant playmaking in the last two sets, setting up Jaylo Labide, PJ Rojas, Antonio Torres and Kevin Liberato for key hits that anchored the Troopers’ late surge.
But it was Greg Dolor who sealed Army’s victory as the Navy’s top hitter served long after putting the Sealions to within two, 12-14.
Seventh placer the last time out, Army rallied from 18-20 down in the fourth set behind Labide’s power hits coupled with the Troopers’ solid blocking off Dolor then took four of the first five points in the decider on Liberato’s back-to-back hits, a Navy error and a Torres block against Dolor.
The Troopers scored two more points courtesy of Rojas and Labide and could’ve pulled away if not for a couple of service errors. But they stayed in control, 7-4, then fended off the Sealions’ own fightback as Liberato blasted in a thunderous kill that made it 9-7.
After Christian Marcelino’s off-the-block hit kept Navy, which placed third behind National U and Cignal last year, within one, the Troopers took five of the next seven points to move to match point on another Labide kill.
Earlier, Imus put its act together in the fourth and finished off Santo Rosa, 25-22, 28-26, 29-31, 25-16, to kickstart its maiden campaign in the league organized by Sports Vision.
A new team backstopped by a slew of seasoned campaigners, the Imus AJAA Spikers re-imposed their will early in the fourth and hardly gave the Lions a chance to recover, cruising to victory for the lead.