PVL: Cignal hopes strong start in semis leads to finals berth

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Cignal HD Spikers. PVL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Cignal is pleased to kick off its semifinals bid with a three-set win over Chery Tiggo, hoping to finally get over the hump in the season-ending Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference.

Determined to reach the finals this time after back-to-back bronze medal finishes in the first two conferences of the 2022 season, the HD Spikers aced their first semis assignment after a 28-26, 25–17, 25-23 victory over the Crossovers on Thursday at Philsports Arena.

Tai Bierria came off the bench and erupted for 21 points as Cignal gained a share of the semis lead with Creamline.

In the previous conferences, Cignal had great elimination round campaigns but always ended up short of making it to the championship series.

In the Open Conference semis, the HD Spikers blew a 1-0 edge after losing back-to-back games to Petro Gazz in their best-of-three series. Then, Cignal lost three of its four games in the Invitationals’ semis round-robin.

“I think this year it’s our first time to experience winning this big in the semifinals because in the past two conferences we played with our backs against the wall and failed to make it to the finals. This time, we started well in the semis,” said the HD Spikers coach Shaq Delos Santos in Filipino.

“Now that we are here. I hope we grab the opportunity. We have to do what we need to do and keep on improving.”

Cignal started slow this conference with an even 3-3 record, needing to beat F2 Logistics and Choco Mucho in its last two elimination games to catch the last bus ride to the semis.

In their past three wins, Delos Santos’ new rotation with Bierria coming off the bench has been working wonders as the locals, including Angeli Araneta, unleashed a balanced attack against their opponents.

“Tai has been more effective on our new rotation. Because everyone from the team is ready to deliver. Whoever gets called is ready to play and provide quality minutes,” said Delos Santos.

Araneta, the HD Spikers’ top local scorer in the game with 10 points, agreed with her coach that they are always ready to repay the trust of the team.

“I always make sure that I’m always ready for the team. Because each one of us is really eager to give our best, once coach decides to field us,” said Araneta, who has been instrumental in their three straight wins, where she averaged 10.0 points per game. “My teammates’ trust was also a huge boost to my confidence.

Going up against the team that beat them in the eliminations, Araneta said the HD Spikers were really determined to get back at  Chery Tiggo in a more important match as only the top two squads with the best records will advance to the best-of-three finals.

“Honestly, all of us were excited to face Chery because we played them on our second game of eliminations. We wanted to show the adjustments we made. We only had one-day recovery from our match last Tuesday but that helped us sustain our momentum,” she said.

Delos Santos said whether Bierria will start or come off the bench in their next game remains a secret. But one thing is for sure, they are eager to go farther this Reinforced Conference by winning their last two games against Creamline on Sunday and Petro Gazz on Tuesday.

“Hopefully, we can maintain this level because we still have a lot to work on. Winning our first [semis] game in straight sets doesn’t mean our last two games will be easier,” said the Cignal coach. “Our next games will be harder. But we’ll take it one game at a time. We will prepare, recover, rest, and study Creamline.”

Araneta is not promising anything in their game against star-studded Creamline but expect Cignal to put up a good fight.

“Both of us won in straight sets today. We will see [who will remain unbeaten] on Sunday,” she said.

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