USJ-R Spiking Jaguars sweep defending champs for CESAFI volleyball title

CEBU CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) - The University of San Jose Recoletos (USJ-R) Spiking Jaguars ended a two-year drought after sweeping the Best of 3 Finals Series of the 2016 CESAFI Volleyball Men’s competition against the defending champion Southwestern University (SWU)-Phinma Spiking Cobras, Sunday, November 20 at the University of San Carlos gym.

The Jaguars clinched the title by winning Game 2, 3 sets to 1, 25-16, 23-25, 29-27, 25-21, and ended the two-year reign of the Cobras, something their female counterpart was not able to do. Earlier, the USJ-R Lady Jaguars conceded the title to the SWU-Phinma Lady Cobras who bagged their fourth title in-a-row in the contest.

USJ-R skipper Ken Jay Verbosidad was named as the Most Valuable Player while four of his teammates also picked up special awards. Dan Ivann Joshua Potot was named as the Best Setter, Ariel Gabunada as the Best Server, Alastair Ian Gairanod as the Best Attacker and Alarich Catayoc as the Best Libero.

The lone Cobra who was able to go home with a special award was John Edward Carascal who was named as the Best Blocker.

Completing the USJ-R Spiking Jaguars are Efren Diego, Rojen Pacio, Ra Tecson, Fred Michael Edloy, Kim Dominguez, Titus Tracy Perez, Lance Abear, Joebert Dano and Mark Buenevista.

As her norm, USJ-R head coach Grace Antigua, a former national team standout, said that she never expects to sweep a finals series. 

“I always go for the third game but if there is a chance to become a champion then I go for it.” 

Antigua said that they were the underdogs despite defeating the Cobras twice during the eliminations because most of SWU-Phinma’s players were tall and powerful. She says she never underestimated the team.

“We won it on team effort, good communication and consistency,” said Antigua who cited especially the efforts of Potot who has been named into the First 6 for the first time this year after he has already been playing for the CESAFI for 4 years.

According to Potot he is very happy with their winning of the title and that he also did not expect to be named as the Best Setter as there were other setters who were much taller than him.

“I am very grateful to coach Grace because it was her who made me transition from a libero to a setter,” said Potot. 

Antigua said that she remained confident even after her boys lost the second set saying that she had told them to continue fighting for it because she believed that they can do it.

The Jaguars closed out the series on a service error by last year’s MVP Alden Dave Cabaron of SWU.

The Jaguars came out determined to close out the series in Game 2 after holding the Cobras to an 11-2 advantage in the first set. The Cobras, who just couldn’t quite catch a break, had to lose the first set by as much as 9 points, 16-25.

The Cobras eventually recovered to close the second set in their favor, 25-23, to bring the game back to square one. Carascal and Cabaron scored on drop shots while Carl Alivio allowed the Cobras to extend their lead to four points 24-20 with his spike down the middle and an ace. The Jaguars still came dangerously close at 23-24, however, Gairanod allowed the Cobras to win when he netted his serve.

The third set was by far the most exciting in the game as both teams could not manage putting up a sizeable lead in the game which got tied 9 times. The Jaguars eventually sealed it in their favor, 29-27, on a down the line spike by Tecson.

The fourth set was pretty much a Jaguars show following a 3-all tie, as they went ahead to lead the game and eventually bagged the title. –