By Jerome Lagunzad
Sta. Lucia spoiled Smart import Gryzelle Silva’s near record-tying offensive performance last night with a 25-15, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22 victory to get its 2018 Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title campaign back on track at The Arena in San Juan City.
Fil-Am hitter MJ Phillips and Canadian import Marisa Field made the Giga Hitters pay dearly for their poor reception with a pair of clutch hits while setter Rebecca Rivero delivered the game-clinching service ace to help the Lady Realtors avert what could be a monumental collapse.
The hard-earned victory enabled Sta. Lucia to bounce back from a four-set loss to defending champion F2 Logistics last week and jacked up its mark to an even 3-3 mark, tying idle Cignal for the fourth spot in the process.
The power-hitting Silva racked up 40 points, just a solitary point away from matching the league’s highest output recorded by Serbian counterpart and former Foton reinforcement Sara Klisura last year, but she still could not prevent Smart from coming up empty-handed for the seventh straight time in the opening round.
“We tried our best to stop her in the first and second sets. But in the third and fourth sets, she’s simply unstoppable,” said Sta. Lucia coach George Pascua of Silva, who had 37 attacks, two blocks and a service ace in her game-long brilliance.
“I told the team that we should grab the lead at least before Silva rotates in front. I’m glad that we were able to do that and Dana (Anisova) connected a lucky ace for the win.”
Silva was at her best in the third set where she helped the Giga Hitters overhaul a 12-16 deficit and stay alive by scoring the frame’s last three points, capped by a vicious kill that went out off the block.
Smart rode high on that momentum in the fourth set where it led by as many as three points thrice—the last at 19-16 off a Sanja Trivunovic kill—and appeared on the way of forcing a fifth and deciding set.
However, Sta. Lucia got its bearings back behind Anisova and Phillips, who even made a nifty toss that caught her Smart defenders off guard and put them on top at 22-21.
Another wallop by Silva tied things up at 22-apiece but that proved to be the Giga Hitters’ last stand. After Phillips scored off an over-reception, Field followed it up with the same play off Smart’s Maureen Penetrante-Ouano, forcing Silva to throw the ball away in sheer frustration.
Then Rivera, who made 18 excellent sets, put the finishing touch with a crafty service ace that helped the Lady Realtors seal the deal in one hour and 44 minutes of play.