TMS-Army is champion once again with rout of Cignal
MANILA, Philippines – The TMS-Army Lady Troopers are slowly carving a reputation that fits their name.
The Troopers are now back-to-back champions in the Philippine Super Liga after they trumped the Cignal HD Spikers in four sets–25-14, 22-25, 25-17, and 25-20–on Saturday, December 14 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The Lady Troopers clearly had sufficient time to integrate their imports within their system as Thai import Luangtonglang Wanitchaya led the offensive charge for them with 17 markers on 16 attacks. While on the defensive end, crowd pleaser and import Yuki Murakoshi manned the floor for defense. She had 19 excellent digs.
"Sa import naman dati medyo naga-adjust pa kami, di pa kami nagkakaintindihan. Ngayon kahit sign language nagkakaintindihan na," said a smiling Army head coach Rico De Guzman. (Before, with our import, we were still adjusting. We couldn't understand each other. Now, even with just sign language we understand each other already.)
He added that the key to their victory was on-point execution of particular aspects of the game.
"Kailangan lang maging aggressive sila sa loob kanina. Doon kami nanalo," he explained. "Kailangan lang namin magandang receive, magandang block and magandang serve." (We just needed to be aggressive inside earlier. That's why we won. We needed good receive, good block, and good serve.)
The Army stuck religiously to that game plan all throughout in spite of some dips here and there. They went with one of their biggest advantages in blocking not only to keep Cignal's offense in check, but to slow the ball down and make it much easier for their defense to operate.
The match was basically a sheer show of power for the Army as they claimed the first set in dominance, 25-14, stunning Cignal, who upset PLDT to reach the finals.
Cignal got over their initial shock and bounced back in the second set, however, to even things out.
However, errors plagued Cignal throughout the match, allowing Army to capitalize and score 34 points from it. In fact, Cignal ended the 3rd set on a service error.
The 4th period was more of a nip-and-tuck affair at the beginning but the Army began pulling away in the middle as they decided to use Cignal's blockers to their advantage instead of forcing things.
Former FEU volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis also flexed her muscles, scoring two straight points on a kill and a service ace as the Troopers threatened to run away, 22-17. Daquis finished with 16 points built on 14 hits and a service ace.
The combined 24 points of Cignal imports Zhanzhan Li and Xie Lei was not enough for them to complete a conference upset.
For De Guzman, the main reason his squad was able to achieve back-to-back titles was because of their chemistry and solid relationship as a team.
"For me, yung team ko hindi mo na hahanapin sa iba, andito na. Kumbaga yung Team Army solid na talaga siya," he explained. (For me, you won't need to look for my players elsewhere, they're all here. Team Army is already solid.)
"Hindi mo na siya kailangang kunin pa sa ibang school. Intact talaga yung team namin. Yun ang advantage namin." (You don't need to get them from different schools. Our team is intact. That's our advantage.)
His only wish for next year's conference is for the team to stay together.
"Sana wag maghihiwalay yung players ko next conference. Sanay na ako sa kanila, sanay na sila sakin." (I hope my players stay together next conference. I'm used to them, they're used to me.)
Meanwhile, Army's Wanitchaya was named Most Valuable Player in the awarding ceremony right after the match.
With limited English, Wanitchaya was still able to express her joy and appreciation with the help of teammate Cristina Salak.
"[I'm] very happy to be in [the] Philippines. Salamat po (Thank you)," she said.
Below is a list of the other individual awards in the women's division.
1st Best Outside Spiker: Li Zhanzhan (Cignal)
2nd Best Outside Spiker: Wanida Kotruang (Cagayan Valley)
1st Best Middle Blocker: Savannah Noyes (PLDT)
2nd Best Middle Blocker: Maureen Ouano-Penetrante (Cignal)
Best Opposite: Suzanne Roces (PLDT)
Best Setter: Kaylee Manns (PLDT)
Best Libero: Yuki Murakoshi (TMS-Army)