On verge of ouster, Cignal shows nerves of steel to stay alive

Cignal won’t simply fade into the night.

The HD Spikers delivered when it mattered most on Tuesday night, outlasting the erstwhile unscathed Petron Tri-Activ Spikers 18-25, 25-13, 25-19, 20-25, 15-12 to keep their hopes alive of making it to the 2016 PSL Invitational final round at the Imus Sports Complex in Cavite.

Aware they need to sweep their 3-match assignment in the 3rd round, Cignal brandished steely nerves down the stretch as setter Djanel Cheng, Jeanette Panaga and Janinne Navarro took turns in delivering crucial points to hold off Petron in an epic battle inside 1 hour and 54 minutes.

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Aside from avenging their 4-set loss dealt by the Tri-Activ Spikers in their 2nd-round meeting last week, the HD Spikers improved to an even 2-2 record to stay on track of clinching a final round spot.

Panaga had a game-high-tying 18-point performance, highlighted by 8 blocks, and Navarro scattered 12 of her 16 markers off kills to lead the for Cignal, which also got a combined 21-point outing from Rizza Mandapat and Davao native Mary Grace Berte.

It was Cheng, however, who saved the day for the HD Spikers as she delivered a pair of service aces in the critical moments that allowed them to survive against the Tri-Activ Spikers, who suffered their 1st setback after 4 matches in the process.

“This is about heart and mental toughness,” said Cignal coach Sammy Acaylar, visibly pleased with how his charges rise to the occasion. “Sabi ko sa kanila, kailangan ng puss at matibay na pag-iisip. Kahit lumayo man ang score, laban pa rin.”

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Aiza Maizo-Pontillas tallied a team-high 18 points, spiked by 15 hits, for Petron but fellow top guns Bang Pineda, Maica Morada and Mina Aganon struggled against Cignal’s tough resistance at the net.

“Dahil nanalo kami, ang confidence namin medyo mataas na. Of course, we respect all the teams here. Pero sa akin, gusto ko ma-develop ang character nila on how they play,” added Acaylar.

Cignal takes on eliminated Foton on Thursday at the Filoil-Flying V Center in San Juan and Acaylar believes his wards have what it takes to realize what seems to be an improbable task.

“Gusto ko rin naman pumasok sa Top 3. Nothing is impossible. Mas gusto ko ‘yung naghahabol kami. Doon gumagana ang utak ko,” said Acaylar.  — By Jerome Lagunzad

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