When the going gets tough, the University of the Cordilleras banked on their middle hitters to get the job done.
Tournament MVP Aice Parrocha and Rosemar Borlongan teamed up in the final set to push the Baby Jaguars past a never-say-die Pudtol Vocational High School side and win the 2018 Akari National High School Volleyball Championships Northern Luzon leg Sunday here.
Parrocha and Borlongan combined for eight of UC’s 15 points in the final set, including the last two daggers that delivered them the hard-earned 25-21, 25-16, 23-25, 16-25, 15-13 triumph at the Baguio City National High School gymnasium.
Taking advantage of the early absence of PVHS star Ricka Mae Ulidan, UC drew first blood before extending their lead to two sets even after Ulidan returned in the second frame.
But with both Ricka Mae and Karen Ulidan heating up, the Apayao squad took control of the third set then held off a late challenge by to push the match into a fourth set, where they dominated.
Things took a turn for the worse for Pudtol, however, as Ulidan was sidelined anew due to overfatigue just before the final frame started.
PVHS, who will represent the Cordillera Administrative Region in the 2018 Palarong Pambansa in Vigan City, did not give up and even raced to a 6-2 lead in the fifth behind aces from Fevie Ilustrado and Marieneth Banza and back-to-back errors from Joanrey Maddatu and Parrocha.
Then Parrocha and Borlongan went to work.
With Parrocha controlling the tempo on the service line, Borlongan wrought havoc on Pudtol’s defense, leading a 7-0 run that pushed them back to the driver’s seat, 9-6.
Two hits from team captain Vina Adviento widened the gap for UC at 12-8, but Ilustrado led PVHS’ final hurrah with back-to-back aces that tied the match for the last time at 13-all.
The Baby Jaguars, though, would not be denied, as Parrocha delivered the last two nails on Pudtol’s coffin with a spike through the block and the match-clinching hit that found no blockers.
The win gave UC a ticket to the Akari National Finals set on March 17-18 at the Adamson University gymnasium.