Sta. Lucia staves off Chery Tiggo comeback in 5-set grind

The Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors saved themselves from humiliation in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference with a grinded-out five-set win over the Chery Tiggo Crossovers, 25-20, 25-12, 24-26, 21-25, 15-10, on Wednesday, July 28.

The Lady Realtors rose up to 3-3 in the standings with their first winning streak of the conference, while the Crossovers skidded down to 3-2.

Jovy Prado left her imprint across all five sets, and finished with a triple-double of 19 points (17 attacks, 2 aces), 14 excellent digs, and 13 excellent receptions for a well-deserved Player of the Game honors.

MJ Phillips continued her strong play with a team-high 23 markers, while Jonah Sabete filled the gaps with a 19-point outing.

After leading the comeback effort from down 0-2, Dindin Santiago-Manabat lost steam in the fifth and final frame with crucial back-to-back attack errors that gave Sta. Lucia a 7-3 lead.

Although she recovered near the end and pushed the Crossovers within 2 points, 10-12, off a timely drop hit, it turned out to be their last gasp as Phillips and Dell Palomata closed the game out with consecutive blocks on Manabat’s last two attacks.

Head coach Eddieson Orcullo was forgiving of his players’ latter set losses, saying that they were all breaks of the game.

“I don’t think our play regressed. Chery Tiggo just pushed to get those sets. The girls just need to understand to keep on fighting, keep on believing, and enjoying the game,” he said.

It looked all but over for Chery Tiggo after eating up a massive 17-3 second set start by Sta. Lucia and a 15-20 deficit late in the third. But the Santiago sisters shored up their net defense with their backs against the wall, which led to the 26-24 win to fight for the fourth set.

From there, momentum fully crossed over to the Chery Tiggo side as it rode an 18-11 lead to a 25-21 tie-up finish.

However, a full comeback was not meant to be as Manabat finished the tough loss with 20 points off 19 attacks, while her sister Jaja backstopped her rally with 14 markers off 10 attacks, 3 blocks, and an ace.

Chery Tiggo now has a huge mountain to climb to get back to the winners’ circle as it is set to face the mighty Creamline Cool Smashers on Friday, July 30.

Meanwhile, Sta. Lucia can enjoy the rest of the week basking in victory as it currently has no games left before the new schedule is released. – Rappler.com