May 10, 2024

Cignal defends Open title with convincing sweep of Criss Cross

Cignal once again asserted its dominance in men’s volleyball, reaffirming its status as the unrivaled powerhouse of the sport. With a 25-23, 27-25, 25-21 victory over Criss Cross in front of an electrified crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum Friday, the HD Spikers clinched yet another Spikers’ Turf Open Conference crown, leaving no doubt as to who reigns supreme.


Despite Criss Cross’ valiant efforts, Cignal showed its unwavering resolve and unmatched skill throughout the match. Led by the dynamic duo of Bryan Bagunas and Jau Umandal, and buoyed by stellar performances of Wendel Miguel, JP Bugaoan and Nastin Gwaza, the HD Spikers demonstrated a masterclass in power, teamwork and tenacity.


Their victory was all the more impressive considering the setback of Umandal’s injury in the third set. Despite the adversity of seeing their teammate leave the court on a stretcher with the score tied at 17, Cignal rallied together, unleashing a decisive 8-4 closing run to clinch the set, the match and the championship with a 2-0 series sweep.


Their fiery windup was punctuated by a couple of clutch kill blocks with Bagunas appropriately sealing the victory with a stinging backrow hit.


Reflecting on their triumph, Bagunas expressed his joy, particularly as it marked his inaugural year with Cignal, following his stint with the Taiwanese club Win Streak where he secured consecutive league titles.


“Napakasaya kasi unang year ko pa lang sa Cignal, nag champion na,” said Bagunas, who was named Finals MVP, after burying 26 points and 12 receptions in the first game and 22 points including five aces and eight receptions in the clincher.


He also acknowledged the growing popularity of men’s volleyball in the country and urged fans to continue supporting the sport and the league.


“Nakita din namin na dumadami na ang fans ng men’s volleyball. Manood lagi kayo at sana tuloy-tuloy ang suporta niyo,” Bagunas told the fans.


The defining moment, however, came in the second set when Cignal staged a stunning comeback from a 17-20 deficit. With Bagunas and Miguel leading the charge, aided by errors from Criss Cross, the HD Spikers leveled the score at 21, setting the stage for a nail-biting finish filled with adrenaline-pumping exchanges and challenges.


Despite Criss Cross’ gutsy stand, Cignal’s unyielding spirit prevailed. Umandal’s precision strikes and Bagunas’ towering presence endured a hard-fought 24-23 lead for Cignal. Despite the King Crunchers’ gallant efforts to stave off defeat, Cignal’s determination ultimately sealed the set and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match that was close throughout.


The third witnessed a similar narrative, with Criss Cross surging early only to be met by Cignal’s trademark comebacks.


Umandal had a spectacular game of 18 points on a high clip of 16-of-23 in attacks while also getting a block and a service ace before the incident.


Bugaoan also scored 11 points built on three blocks for Cignal.


With the victory, Cignal clinched its second consecutive Open crown and seventh overall, further solidifying its reputation as the premier volleyball powerhouse in the country.


Marck Espejo paced the silver medalists King Crunchers with 17 points, 11 receptions, and three digs.


Jude Garcia chipped in 13 points while Kim Malabunga added 11 in the losing cause.


In the battle for third place, PJGC-Navy secured the bronze medal despite a four-set loss to the D’Navigators earlier. With both teams trading four-set victories, the Sealions emerged victorious based on a points ratio tiebreaker.