National University-Sta. Elena punched its ticket to the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference quarterfinals after sending Iloilo to the brink of elimination, 31-29, 25-16, 25-17, at the Paco Arena in Manila, Wednesday afternoon.
The Nationals, who have yet to drop a set in the tournament, now boasts a league-best 4-0 record in Pool A.
Perpetual-Kinto Tyres and Philippine Army, who are both tied at the second spot with 2-1 slates, can only get up to 11 and 10 points, respectively, while the rest of the group already absorbed two losses or more, allowing NU to seal its spot in the playoffs.
“Deserving talaga yung team kasi sa naging performance namin after ng V-League, nag-focus kami sa pagkukulang namin. Siguro nakadagdag din yung pagdagdag ng tao namin, bumalik si Nico (Almendras) saka si Owa (Retamar),” said NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin.
“Importante lang din magtuluy-tuloy kami kung ano ‘man yung meron kami ngayon para sa next game namin mas maganda gagawin namin,” he added.
Already holding a four-point lead, 19-15, Nico Almendras scored three points in a 5-0 blast that gave the Nationals a commanding 23-15 lead over the D’Navigators late in the third set.
Gerard Diao committed a service error while Kyle Villamor followed it up with a cross-court attack to keep Iloilo alive but Almendras answered back with an offspeed hit before Rwenzmel Taguibolos blocked Villamor for the win.
Leo Aringo spearheaded the Nationals with 15 points built on 11 attacks while Taguibolos had six attacks, six blocks, and two service aces to finish with 14 points in 75 minutes of play.
On the other hand, Mfewana Gwaza paced the D’Navigators with eight points on six attacks, an ace, and a block while Jerome Cordez and Deanne De Pedro had seven and six markers, respectively, as Iloilo slid to 1-3.
Sta. Elena will take on Philippine Army next on November 26, 1:00 p.m. while Iloilo looks to keep its slim chances alive against Ateneo-Fudgee Barr on Sunday, 5:00 p.m.