Cagayan nips Tuguegarao in gripping 5-setter

Myke Miravite

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Cagayan nipped Tuguegarao in an exciting 5-setter to move one win away from the championship.

Photo by Rappler/Roy Secretario.

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines — Up to the hype.

Star-studded squads Cagayan and Tuguegarao battled toe-to-toe, with the former emerging in an epic down-the-wire battle in the final round of the 5th Gov. Alvaro T. Antonio Friendship Games on Friday, June 28 at the People’s Gymnasium here. 

After being silent for most of the match, Cagayan’s Angeli Tabaquero delivered the game-winning spike as they escaped Tuguegarao in 5 sets, 25-15, 25-15, 16-25, 20-25, 17-15, before a jampacked crowd at the venue.

Cagayan almost squandered a 2-0 set advantage, but their Thai imports in Kannika and Anongporn waxed hot just in time to overcome a 12-7 Tuguegarao lead in the deciding set to inch closer to the title.

Down by one at 13-12, Kannika fired back-to-back service aces to make it 14-13 but Gela Benting tied the match once more after finding a hole in Cagayan’s defense.

Jang Bualee brought Tuguegarao back to the driver’s seat, before Anongporn answered with an attack and a completed set to move to match point, 16-15.

With pressure mounting on both sides, Tabaquero finally sealed the deal for Cagayan with a booming hit.

“Sa isip ko, andun ‘yung pressure pero I just hit the ball hard and it went in,” said Tabaquero, a former UST star and the captain of the Bomberinas, told Rappler.

“Noong 3rd and 4th sets, nawala kami,” she added. “We committed lapses pero buti na lang nakabawi kami sa dulo.”

Blazing start

Cagayan, comprised mainly of national team players and Thai imports, started off hot as Aiza Maizo rained their opposition with timely hits but V-League MVP Dindin Santiago, together with Bualee and Utaiwan teamed up to tie the game at 8-all.

Anongporn and Maizo, however, revived Cagayan’s offense to run away with a 25-15 first set win.

Bualee and Santiago then combined in the second set to engage Anongporn in a vicious exchange but Cagayan’s foreign contingent outwitted Tuguegarao to repeat a 25-15 second set win and take a two-set advantage.

Photo by Rappler/Roy Secretario.

Incredible comeback

All fired up to finish off Tuguegarao, Cagayan fielded in their 4 Thai players to begin the 3rd set, with Anongporn continuing her barrage of attacks on their foes but Bualee, Utaiwan, and Santiago engineered a stirring comeback to steal the 3rd, 25-16.

Cagayan started the 4th frame capitalizing on Tuguegarao’s defensive lapses after Jem Ferrer committed back-to-back errors.

Luckily for them, Santiago and Fille Cainglet kept their team in the game and snatch the lead late in the set, 20-16.

Former Ateneo star Rubie de Leon then scored 5 of Tuguegarao’s last 7 points to grab the 4th set, 25-20 and extend the game into a deciding 5th set.

Down the wire

Both teams then battled neck-and-neck in the final set, exchanging attack after attack but the hard-hitting Bualee and Benting gained the upper hand midway to lead by four, 11-7.

Anongporn then came back for Cagayan just in time with Tabaquero securing the winner to send Tuguegarao down their knees, 17-15, and get themselves to a better position to claim the crown and the Php 500,000 jackpot.

Tuguegarao will need a win against the winner of Bracket C on Saturday, June 29, to keep its title hopes alive while Cagayan is only a win away from being declared the winner in the 3-team round robin finals. –

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