by Andy Fiel
The Balipure Water Defenders played a strong final set to upend a favored Chery Tiggo side in their scheduled second game (19-25, 25-19, 13-25, 27-25, 15-12) in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference on Thursday at PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte. This is despite the strong performances of Jaja Santiago and her sister Din-Din Santiago-Manabat for the Crossovers.
After the match Graze Bombita led all scorers for Balipure but got a lot of support from her teammates in the crucial moments of the game.
Coach Rommel Abella, Graze Bombita, Alina Bicar, and Bern Flora appeared in a recent interview with Brian Yalung and this writer as they shared their insights on the game against the Crossovers.
During the second set, which they won (25-19), Balipure was comfortably ahead by as much as 8 points, 23-18, before Chery Tiggo rattled off three straight points to close the gap. It was a potential turning point for the Crossovers which prompted Abella to call a timeout.
“Parang na-excite kami kasi we were leading tapos we were about to win the set. Medyo na-excite siguro ung mga players. Sinabi ko na hinga, just need to relax. Two points na lang ung kailangan natin. Buti nag-respond naman ung mga players,” Coach Abella stated.
Among the players that showed consistency in organizing the team’s offense was setter Alina Bicar. But her contributions defensively spelled the difference in the match including a successful running save at their bench area in the latter part of the match.
“Gusto talaga naming manalo. Hindi naming iniisip na matatalo kami. Ung nasa isip namin mananalo kami ngayon. Tapos nagusap din kami. Ang sabi ko, ayusin natin, kailangan walang lalapag na bola. Kahit ano mangyari, kahit saan pumunta ang bola, kahit i-dive pa yan kukunin natin ang bola,” the former UST Tigress said.
“Doon din sa may bench area, kukunin ko na ito kasi sayang din yon. Kasi para sa amin din ito. May tumulong din sa pagkuha ko. Hindi pinabayaan. Andon din sila para i-support ako,” Bicar added.
Aside from Graze Bombita the Water Defenders also showcased their second outside hitter Bern Flora who played an inspired game against a tall Chery Tiggo frontline. A product of the Adamson Lady Falcons, Bern had a breakthrough game and helped her team get their first win in the PVL. This is despite having limited time to train with her new teammates.
“Nung pag set sa akin ni Alina naisip ko noon na papaluin ko ito ng malakas kasi kailangan talaga naming maka-score. Tsaka kung ano ang tinuturo ni coach sa akin yun talaga ang ginagawa ko,” she said
Coach Abella explained the dynamic of the team once Flora was added to the roster and explained that she assimilated well to the group as a late addition.
“Hindi ganon kahirap kasi kalog lahat. Since ganon din ugali ni Bern so hindi sya mahirap integrate sa team,” said Abella.
As Balipure’s first outside hitter it was expected from Bombita to lead the charge offensively and be a factor in blocking. The face of the franchise put up herculean numbers leading the Water Defenders with 24 points (21 attacks, 2 blocks, 1 service ace). Graze also put into perspective what drives her to improve on her performance from one game to the next.
“Nung una sa Army sobrang takot na takot ako magkamali. Ang resulta mas marami akong errors. Pero nung sa chery inisip ko lang talaga na maglaro lang. Ini-enjoy ko lang ung laro, makinig lang ako sa sinasabi ng coaches, ng mga teammates ko. Ung pag-push nila sa akin ang pinagkukunan ko ng lakas. So sa bawat puntos na ginawa ko para talaga yon sa kanila,” the power hitter said.