Smart clinches first franchise win, sweeps Sta. Lucia
Sta. Lucia misses the services of Jho Maraguinot, Chinchin Basas and Rica Rivera

INAUGURAL WIN. After a winless 2018 Grand Prix stint, the Giga Hitters pull of an upset for their first win ever. Photo by Joaquin Flores/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Smart Army Giga Hitters upset the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors in straight sets, 25-14, 25-16, 25-23, for their first franchise win in the Philippine Superliga Invitational 2018 on Monday, June 25 at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

A 4-touches error sent the Giga Hitters to match point. However, Joanne Bunag’s service went straight to the net that extended the game. A service error from Realtors’ team captain Pam Lastimosa ended the match in favor of the Giga Hitters.

Nerissa Bautista topscored for the Giga Hitters with 9 points while making 9 excellent digs. Lutgarda Malaluan followed with 8 points.

MJ Phillips led the Realtors with 8 points while Dhannylaine Demontano and Jonah Sabete chipped in 5 points apiece. 

Sta. Lucia missed the services of their key players Jho Maraguinot, Chinchin Basas and Rica Rivera. The former Ateneo Lady Eagle will be out for two weeks due to a muscle strain while Basas is recovering from an ear infection. Rivera will be out until the All-Filipino conference due to a knee injury.

The Giga Hitters started the game strong with a 13-2 run, highlighted by aces from team captain Ging Balse-Pabayo and Nerissa Bautista that led to their early 18-9 lead. They savored this advantage and closed the first set with an 11-point lead, 25-14. 

The Giga Hitters continued the momentum into the second set, preserving a 9-point lead. The Realtors answered with a 5-1 run that trimmed the deficit, 11-16. The Giga Hitters still stayed in control as Joanne Bunag’s attack brought it to set point, 24-14, and Smart eventually took the 2-1 match advantage.

The Realtors stayed within reach of the Giga Hitters in the third set as Phillips’ back-to-back points tied the score at 8-all. Errors continued to plague the team that led to its defeat. –  with reports from Carla Molina/