Mt. Carmel School 1 played a spoiler role, preventing an all-Grace Christian Academy finals in the middle school division of the 2017-2018 Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association Volleyball League after eking out a three-set win over GCA 1 in their semis game yesterday at the Eagles court in Navy Hill.
The Knights battled back from an opening set loss, 17-25, prevailing in the last two, 25-13, 15-4, to clinch the first finals berth and foil GCA’s bid for a family affair in tomorrow’s championship game. The Eagles, though, will still have a shot at the division title, as GCA 2 took the second finals seat after dominating Agape Christian School, 25-12, 25-7, in the other Final Four pairing.
GCA 1 moved one set away from advancing to the finals when it withstood Mt. Carmel’s late rally in the first set. The Knights were down, 12-17, when they tied the match at 17-all, forcing GCA 1 coach Genesis Prieto to call a timeout. When the game resumed, the Eagles regained their bearings and scored 8 unanswered points with the last one off Mt. Carmel’s error (three touches).
The Eagles also posted the first point in the second set, but the Knights countered with a 13-2 run to take control of that period. Merrick Toves scored on a couple of shots near the net, while Diaz had some aces, and the other Mt. Carmel points came off GCA 1’s errors. In that meltdown, Prieto was pressed to burn all his two time outs to stop the bleeding.
After the second timeout, GCA 1 managed to earn 3 straight points, however, the Knights won the next exchanges, including the last 4-1 scoring surge capped by Toves’ tip to send the exciting semis match to a deciding third set.
Mt. Carmel then rode on its momentum in the second-set victory to win the third and complete the come-from-behind victory. While Toves and Diaz teamed up for the Knights in the second set, it was Richard Steele who gave Mt. Carmel the needed lift in the third.
Steele had three straight aces, giving Mt. Carmel a 4-0 lead. The Knights got their first point off Toves’ kill and with Mt. Carmel threatening to break away, Prieto pressed the panic button early.
However, the brief lull did not break Steele’s rhythm as he added three more aces before serving wide on his eighth try, handing GCA 1 its first point in the third set.
Though they managed to snap Mt. Carmel’s run, the Eagles failed to get successive points and also committed costly turnovers, including miscommunication on whose going to hit the ball. On three occasions, the leather dropped in front of two GCA 1 players.
The Knights went on to end GCA 1’s finals hopes when Steele closed out for Mt. Carmel going for a kill from the left side with the ball heading down the Eagles’ front line. Chris Pangelinan stepped forward, rushing out for a return, but his shot went wide out of the sideline, handing Mt. Carmel the first finals berth.
Knights coach Jun Yun lauded his players for their efforts, especially after working harder in the last two sets. In the finals, Yun hopes to see the same determination and aggressiveness from his players, as they will be up against a very tough team in GCA 2.
“We will keep on attacking and play more on the net,” Yun said.
It will be a battle of offense in the finals, as GCA coach Caesar Libut also said they are counting on their attackers to get the win and keep their unbeaten record this season. However, Libut cautioned his players not to be overconfident because even though they defeated Mt. Carmel twice and have yet to drop a single game in the competition, you can never tell what will going to happen in the finals.
“We will play for every point, whether we are leading by a big margin or not,” Libut said.