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Perpetual Help stun College of St. Benilde; complete sweep

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Perpetual Help turned back defending champion College of St. Benilde, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 15-9, to complete a nine-game elimination round sweep and clinch an automatic finals berth in the men’s division of the 93rd NCAA volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan City.

Joebert Almodiel unleashed a match-best 23 points including 21 off attacks while Ridzuan Muhali, team captain Rey Taneo, John Patrick Ramos and Ronniel Rosales chipped in 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively, to power the Altas to a pristine 9-0 (win-loss) record and straight to the best-of-three finale.

“When we lost the first set, I just told them to play with pride and I’m happy that they responded,” said Perpetual Help coach Sammy Acaylar.

The Las Pinas-based spikers await their finals foe as Arellano University, San Beda and CSB, which finished second to fourth place with 8-1, 7-2 and 6-3 records, claw at each other in the stepladder semifinals.

San Beda and CSB tackle each other in the first semis tomorrow in a knockout duel with the winner battling AU on Tuesday in another do-or-die showdown for the right to clinch the last seal to the finals against Perpetual Help.

The Altas, who last won two seasons ago, will be gunning for their 11th men’s title including a five-peat feat from 1985-89 and a four-peat from 2011-13.

If it happens, Perpetual Help will emerge as the second most titled squad behind Letran with 14 crowns and ahead of Mapua with 10.

And to achieve that, Acaylar said they need to be mentally ready.

“It’s not about the X and Os anymore. The championship will be won by the team that is more mentally prepared. And that is what we need to win this thing again,” said Acayalar.