Saints and Lattes-Letran went to its middles when its wingmen began to sputter, overcoming a first set loss to repel Maruichi Hyogo, 23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-20, and propel the team back into finals contention in the Spikers’ Turf Invitational Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig Saturday.
Middle blockers Vince Himzon and Felxi Bermido responded to coach Brian Esquibel instructions after the Saints Spikers’ early slip with the former delivering 21 points on 15 attacks, five blocks and an ace and the latter chipping in 11 markers.
The win-loss-win run in the five-team round robin semis thus put Letran back in the hunt as the Saints Spikers tied the NU-Sta. Elena Nationals at 2-1, just behind the Cignal HD Spikers, who swept their first two matches.
In contrast, the Japanese guest squad absorbed its second straight defeat after dropping it debut match to Cignal in shutout fashion last Friday.
“Nag-respond naman sila doon sa instruction na kailangan yung middle natin ang gumana kasi mabibilis dumepensa yung Japanese,” said Esquibel. “Kung mapapansin mo, kung taas taas lang ng bola wala kaming masyadong points na nagagawa.”
Letran playmaker Wayne Arano promptly adjusted his strategy, utilizing the middle blockers to finish with 23 excellent sets. He also scored two points in the one-hour, 32-minute contest.
“S’yempre nag-high pitch na ako sa kanila kahapon kasi sayang yung pagkakataon kasi kaya ring manalo kahapon,” added Esquibel.
Reeling from a four-set loss to the Nationals after surprising the Perpetual Altas last Wednesday, the Saints Spikers struggled against the Japanese in the early going, enabling the youthful visiting squad to snatch the set and spark hopes for a big rebound after bowing the powerhouse HD Spikers the previous day.
But the Saints Spikers buckled down to work and dominated the second, held sway in the third before capping their big comeback in convincing fashion.
Yuji Kawagoe tried to keep Maruichi Hyogo in the match, scoring four of the team’s last five points to tie it at 20. But Himzon combined with Lorenz Vicente and Steven Sta. Maria as they unleashed a crippling 5-0 run to wrap up the match.
Bem-Bem Bautista scored 15 points and came up with 12 excellent receptions while Sta. Maria posted 15 markers on 13 attacks, two blocks and an ace.
Kawagoe wound up with a game-high 24 points on 22 attacks and two aces while team captain Hinata Kuroda tallied 18 points on 17 attacks and an ace that went with five excellent digs.
Maruichi Hyogo, meanwhile, seeks to check its skid against National U-Sta. Elena tomorrow (Monday) while Letran faces on Cignal on Tuesday.