Foiled in its sweep bid in a wild third set endgame, Imus put its act together in the fourth and finished off Santo Rosa, 25-22, 28-26, 29-31, 25-16, to kickstart its maiden campaign in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference at the Paco Arena in Manila last night.
A new team backstopped by a slew of seasoned campaigners, the Imus AJAA Spikers re-imposed their will early in the fourth and hardly gave the Lions a chance to recover, cruising to victory for the lead in the season-opening conference of the country’s first men’s volley league organized by Sports Vision.
Louie Ramirez, who played for Cignal HD the last time out, blasted in 17 points, while Kim Malabunga, a former VNS Volleyball Club stalwart, provided the veterans smarts and poise for the AJAA Spikers, who trailed late in the third frame marred by an exchange of mishits and flawed serves, enabling the Lions to live another set.
But the young Santa Rosa side, which finished fifth in a field of seven in its league debut late last year, struggled in the fourth on miscommunication, leading to a number of bungled offensive plays, some of which the AJAA Spikers translated into key hits and points.
Imus, whose campaign is supported by the Ivy Tuason Photography, produced 16 attack points in the fourth, four more than the Lions, and scored seven points off their rivals’ errors while yielding four of their own.
Malabunga finished with 14 points while Josh Villanueva added 11 markers for the Cavite-based spikers
“Frankly, I’m not satisfied with the performance of my team. It’s great we won but we still struggle trying to get all the players in training,” said Imus head coach Sammy Acaylar.
“Actually, we only had two days to prepare with eight players only. So ngayon lang kami nakumpleto. They are all good, I respect their skills kaya sabi ko lang sa kanila buoin lang natin para makita natin kung saan tayo nagkukulang,” he added.
The AJAA Spikers trailed, 22-24, in the third frame but Ridzuan Muhali sparked a three-point with a down-the-line kill to regain control. The two teams then traded points on miscues before Anrie Bakil and Kevin Montemayor took over for Santa Rosa.
Bakil hammered in a kill to force a tie at 29 before the San Beda standout finished it off with back-to-back hits to send the game to another set.
Montemayor led Santa Rosa with 16 points on 13 attacks, two aces, and a block while Exequiel Quezada and Gabriel Magsino added 10 points each.