Sta. Elena-National U whisked off Maruichi Hyogo’s pesky challenge in the third set and essayed a 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 victory to seal a one-match showdown with Cignal for the Spikers’ Turf Invitational crown at the Philsports Arena in Pasig Monday night.
It was NU’s third straight win after absorbing a straight-set loss from Cignal as the Nationals secured the other finals berth with a commanding 2.25 set ratio.
Even if Saints and Lattes-Letran (2-1) sweeps Cignal at the close of the semis on Tuesday and forces a tie at the top, the Saints Spikers could only post a 2.0 set ratio at best.
Cignal and National U will dispute the championship on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
"Kailangan lang talaga namin mag-focus ulit sa ginagawa namin. Siempre gusto namin manalo, makuha yung championship ulit dito sa Spikers' Turf," said National U head coach Dante Alinsunurin on their upcoming face-off with the fancied HD Spikers.
Nico Almendras paced the Nationals with 13 points, almost single-handedly thwarting the Japanese repeated rallies in the third, while Jade Disquitado and Rwenzmel Taguibolos added 11 markers apiece.
Michaelo Buddin missed his fourth straight game due to a sprained right ankle and remains a doubtful starter on Friday.
"Thankful ako sa naging performance ngayon kasi although malikot yung kalaban namin, nagawa pa rin namin yung gusto naming gawin sa loob ng court like yung floor defense namin, yung blocking namin," added Alinsunurin, who also handles the Choco Mucho Flying Titans in the Premier Volleyball League.
The Nationals also minimized their errors to just 12 after yielding 16 unforced errors against the Altas and 28 against the Saints Spikers.
Kyosuke Kashimoto led Maruichi with 17 points on 14 attacks, two blocks, and an ace, while Yuji Kawagoe finished with 10 points, 15 excellent receptions, and six digs.
The Hyogo selection team wraps up its semis campaign against Perpetual-Kinto Tyres in a duel of winless teams at 11 a.m. today (Tuesday) after the 9 a.m. match between Cignal and Letran.
The winner will gain a shot for the bronze against Letran.