Cagayan’s Rising Suns took Game One of the best-of-three Shakey’s V-League Open Conference Finals 26-24, 25-11, 23-25, 11-25, 15-12, in a thrilling down-the-wire victory over the Smart-Maynilad Net Spikers. With the win, Cagayan is now just one victory away from completing a historic clean sweep and finally clinching the Shakey’s Open title.
It had looked relatively easy at the start for the Suns as they raced to win the first 2 sets. Displaying a sharp and well-rested offense, plus a defense that stymied the Smart gunners, Nes Pamilar’s Suns looked well-oiled and indestructible. The Suns net defense shone brightest as they limited Smart’s scoring machine, Alyssa Valdez – seemingly unstoppable in scoring upwards of 20 points in her past games – to a very mortal and measly 7 points!
Seeing Alyssa marked and stifled by the Suns’ nettters, Coach Roger Gorayeb adjusted in the 3rd set, bringing in Lizlee Pantone and focusing more attacks on Lithawat Kesinee and Dindin Santiago. Smart salvaged the 3rd and 4th sets, took the momentum, and seemed poised to snatch the game-winning 5th set as well.
But the Suns regrouped in the 5th and deciding set, breaking away from a 10-all nail-biter with a more determined defense. Cagayan won with ‘Killer’ Kannika Thipachot’s 22 spikes, along with Angeli Tabaquero’s 16, plus Aizo Maizo’s 4 magnificent blocks – 2 of which were successive rejections of Alyssa’s last gasp offensive – and Soraya ‘The Setter’ Phomia’s 44 sets.
Smart’s losing cause was led by Kesinee with 20 points and Dindin with 12. The marked Alyssa could only manage 7 points. A collision with teammate Maru Banaticla in the 2nd set didn’t help her any, as she hurt her head and shoulder and had to be sidelined for a while.
Expect Coach Roger to make some adjustments on Sunday’s match. Expect Coach Nes not to rest on their laurels yet. Expect more exciting action as the gunslingers go boom and bang.
Now is not the time for the faint of heart. Now is the time to just do or die! Make way for the artillery attack from Alyssa, Kesinee and Dindin. Beware of the guns of Kannika, Angeli and Aizo. It’s still anybody’s ball game, folks. And as they say: it ain’t over till it’s over.
In the battle for 3rd place, Army waylaid the Air Force 26-24, 29-27, 25-21 to take the lead in their own best-of-three series.
For more on the Shakey’s V-League Open Women’s volleyball:
(Photos courtesy of Arnold Z Cruz, Pinoy Spikers and Shakey’s V-League)