What was expected to be a down-the-wire thriller turned into a sweep.
Hope Christian High School flexed its muscles early and often in blanking Holy Rosary College, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20, to win the first-ever Akari National High School Girls Volleyball Championship Sunday at the Adamson Gym in Manila.
Both squads went undefeated throughout the first two days of competition, as the teams from Manila and Laguna showed dominance against the rest of the field that included squads from Baguio City, Angeles City, Bacolod, Iligan City, and Muntinlupa.
The Rhinos were actually the first team to taste the lead, as they were up, 6-4, early in the opening frame.
But Hope uncorked a 6-1 run behind the exploits of youngster Jessa Dorog to take the driver’s seat, 10-7.
No team, though, would budge in the next few minutes, with Irah Jaboneta and Dorog exchanging gunfire with Trisha Mae Genesis and Mellenie Mapula to go into a tie at 21-all.
Back-to-back hits by Jaboneta sandwiched by an Ethan Arce block on Genesis, however, gave Hope enough breathing room to take the first set, 25-23.
Hope continued to set HRC’s defense on fire in the second frame, racing to a 5-1 lead that they expanded to 18-9 as the Rhinos’ attack fell silent.
Compounding HRC’s woes was the set expulsion of coach Lerma Giron, who was booked for a joint yellow and red card by first referee Mario Mia for continuous complaining.
But the Rhinos made Giron’s expulsion a rallying point, with Aliah Marce coming alive in a 13-2 run that trimmed the Hope lead to just 22-20 after an ace by Maveth Torres.
HRC’s run ran out of steam, though, as three straight points from Jaboneta and Mycah Go ended it at 25-20 for Hope.
The third set was yet another gripping exchange of firepower from both teams, with no one leading by more than two points until Go gave Hope a 17-14 advantage late in the frame.
Go continued to sizzle and kept the Rhinos at bay, scoring crucial points, including the dagger that sent Hope to match point at 24-20.
Jaboneta then put on the finishing touches as Hope earned the championship in a tournament that featured more than 200 teams from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.