The Cagayan Rising Suns bolstered their position as the country’s top women’s volleyball team with an emphatic 25-9, 25-16, 25-20 massacre over an obviously out-of-sync Army Lady Troopers squad. With the triad of Kannika Thipachot, Angeli Tabaquero and Wenneth Eulalia providing lethal fire over the horizon, Coach Nes Pamilar’s Rising Suns demonstrated merciless form, mocking the Army’s air and ground defenses in stamping their class in just 3 sets and barely an hour breaking sweat.
So sharp and devastating were the Suns that even the presence of Rachel Ann Daquis, however briefly, could not stop the tsunami of attacks orchestrated by setter par excellence, Soraya Phomia. Soraya’s strong presence, in both offense and defense, was what hurt the Army the most. She scored 37 of Cagayan’s 38 sets as opposed to the entire Army’s measly 15, aside from providing timely saves on the defensive end.
Daquis had just arrived from a short vacation with her family in Germany and was obviously not yet in peak form. On top of that, the Army’s top net defender, Tina Salak, was adviced not to play due to some health issues. Still, many believed that the Army had enough guns to at least make a good fight out of it. They had their budding star, Juvy Gonzaga, plus the likes of veterans Mary Jean Balse, Nerissa Bautista, Michelle and Mayette Carolino, skipper Joanne Bunag, Jackie Alarca, Dahlia Cruz, among others.
But their depth, it seems, played to their disadvantage here. Coach Rico De Guzman paraded 12 Lady Troopers, frantically looking for the right combination. All to no avail. Pamilar and the Suns stuck to their Fab 7 all throughout: imports Soraya and Kannika, plus Tabaquero, Eulalia, Aiza Maizo Pontillas, Pau Soriano and libero Jek Dionela. In the end, they were a well-oiled machine, better conditioned, and with much better teamwork.
The Army was totally outclassed in this encounter. Massacred. Humiliated. Disgraced. They need to go back to the drawing boards now. They need to improve their defense, particularly their blocking. They need more speed in their sets, more power in their spikes. They need better communication, better coverage for their defense to get better reception and more digs. Most of all, they need to never underestimate any opponent. Every game must be played like a championship game henceforth. Focus. No mercy, otherwise you end up soft and ill-prepared.
For the Suns, they cannot rest on their laurels. They have the power, the speed, the spunk. They are young and have a bright future ahead. Their strong presence in the national team that will compete in Thailand this month will certainly give them a more competitive edge. For the other teams are expected to start beefing up their line-ups for the next round. These teams will have their sights trained on them.
With the next round right around the corner, it’s time to up the ante. For now, the Suns have risen. Can the Army and the rest of the teams usher in the sunset?
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(Photos courtesy of interaksyon.com, jun mendoza, solarsports.ph, ph.sports.yahoo.com, arnold cruz, george calvelo)