LINGAYEN, Pangasinan - For National Capital Region coach Grace Vita, third time's the charm.
The Big City spikers gifted their mentor her first Palarong Pambansa crown after downing defending champion Western Visayas in four sets on a sunny Saturday morning at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center here.
Dropping her two previous finals attempts in the finals, Vita completed the trick this time as veteran spiker Marge Tejada rose to the challenge in the 25-16, 25-19, 19-25, 25-17 victory, probably her last in the high school ranks.
"At last!," the jubilant Colegio San Agustin coach exclaimed. "Ang sarap manalo (It feels great to win). I am very elated."
Region VI started strong in all four sets, only to surrender leads when NCR began to heat up.
Tejada, who will be playing for Ateneo in the UAAP, Sam Torres and Ana Gopico delivered the jarring blows to Western Visayas' defense as they grabbed their second crown in the last three years.
"Sabi ni coach, kailangan ng puso at tatag sa loob ng court (Coach said we need heart and courage inside the court)," Tejada told Rappler. "Ipinaglaban namin yung talagang dapat sa amin (We fought for what was rightly ours)."
Metro Manila's blocking was also a sight to behold as it held Region VI power hitters Bernadeth Pons and Aeriel Estranero into atrocious outings as Gopico, Tejada and the rest of the NCR squad held fort.
"Yun (blocking) ang secret weapon namin (Blocking is our secret weapon)," Vita added. "Nakita naman namin yung game nila the past days kaya alam na namin ang gagawin (We watched their game in the past days so we knew what to do)."
Western Visayas coach Malot Lozada was surprised with her team's showing.
"Grabe, off game ngayon (We had such an off game today)," she said. "Nothing went our way. Pero okay lang (But it's okay). We will bounce back."
Scuffle breaks outs
In boys volleyball action, NCR outlasted Central Visayas in a pulsating 24-26, 25-20, 14-25, 25-17, 15-12 win marred by a controversial call in the most crucial of times.
Holding a precarious 13-12 advantage, a Metro Manila spiker hit the ball long. The referee, however, ruled it a check ball and awarded NCR the score to send them at match point, 14-12.
A scuffle broke out at this point when fans and supporters of Region VII stormed the court in protest.
NCR went on to win but CVRAA official Duchess Veloso said that they will file a protest straight to the Department of Education after officials denied the appeal they made after the match.
"Lahat ng tao dito, alam nilang out (Everyone could tell the ball was out of bounds)," Central Visayas coach Kareem Datig told Rappler. "Malayo ang blocker tapos check ball daw? Sa DepEd na lang magkakaalaman (The blocker was so far and it was a check ball? DepEd will decide the truth)."