With a bright prospect ahead for the young players and gaining rich experience from the tournament, Flora’s fourth place finish in the just-concluded 2017 Governor’s Cup women’s volleyball competitions should be enough for the local team to celebrate. Pudtol was undefeated in six games to remain the province’s best.
Bannered by Palarong Pambansa veteran Alyssa De San Jose and reinforced by two reliable imports, the locals displayed their game brilliance with a win at home against an equally strong visiting team from Kabugao, 25-13, 25-21 giving the huge fans in attendance at the Dr. Efren U. De San Jose Memorial Sports Center during the Flora-leg of the annual sports activity on May 12 something to savor until the next season.
Flora, mentored by the FNHS teaching staff Elynor Tabuena, easily took the first set as they broke away from a 11-8 advantage to a 23-10 count via a 12-2 run including five consecutive aces on seven services made by power-serving import Ivy Estabillo combined with the consistent defensive posture of De San Jose in the net as well as the able support of the local crew and another strong import in Gemelyn Seguirre.
Estabillo played for University of Cagayan Valley and has been into the Palarong Pambansa for 10 consecutive years or since Grade 4. The Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya native joined Palaro in her elementary, high school and college days. Seguirre suited-up for the Cagayan Valley Rising Stars in the Philippine Super Liga. She hails from Sta. Ana, Cagayan and played for Cagayan State University in 2011-2013. Local talents Raquel Bacutan and Kristine Castro also contributed well.
De San Jose is a varsity scholar at St. Louis University. She represented Tuguegarao City during the recent Cagayan Valley Regional Athletic Association (CVRAA) meet in Ilagan, Isabela. Her team finished third. It will be recalled that she helped Team Apayao in winning the CARAA title in 2016 and had a baptism of fire in Palaro representing CAR.
In the second set, Flora started sloppily with service errors and weak defense giving the two big imports of Kabugao for easy shots on open court to keep the pace in the early going.
But after a 5-7 deficit, Flora suddenly regained its composure when Estabillo reasserted her lofty billing imposing her will with crisp service aces while Seguirre and De San Jose covering the front and the locals moving in front at 18-13. From then on, Flora took control of the match the rest of the way for the straight set triumph.
Before that, Flora gave up one match point after a commanding 24-20 lead when Victoria dug a strong return from Flora with a spike to deep left and uncontested. But in Kabugao’s next offensive thrust, Flora’s high-leaping Estabillo finished them off with a two-handed fake by dropping it to the open right near the line and the net that sent the home crowd in frenzy.
In its earlier assignments, Flora took off with a 25-22 win over host Calanasan on May 3 then lost to home team Luna (25-22, 22-25, 19-25) on May 5. Flora quickly recovered with a lopsided 25-13, 25-15 victory over Conner on May 7 also at the Bienvenido G. Verzola Memorial Sports Center in Luna but failed to sustain its momentum when they lost to host team Pudtol (9-25, 12-25) on May 10.
After its home win against Kabugao, Flora dropped again its last game in the single-round robin tournament to second placer Sta. Marcela (25-19, 15-25, 25-15) on May 13 in Conner to close-out with a 3-3 win-loss record, same as Luna and Calanasan but the winner-over-the-other tie-break system was used to determine the standings. Pudtol beats Luna to virtually bag the crown in the annual tournament’s final leg in Kabugao. KN