12:45 p.m. – PLDT vs Army
2:45 p.m. – Meralco vs Cagayan
Thrust into the spotlight off a star-studded roster, Carmina Aganon responded with crucial hits in the last two frames as Army rallied to edge a tough-fighting Meralco side, 25-21, 21-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-9, at the start of the semifinal round of the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan Thursday.
Powerhouse PLDT Home Ultera sustained its hot form and ripped Cagayan Valley, 25-22, 25-14, 25-23, in the other semis clash to join Army in the early lead in the single round semis where the top two teams will clash for the crown in the season-opening conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
Jaja Santiago, Gretchel Soltones and Alyssa Valdez, toughened up by their stint with national team in the recent Asian U-23 Championship, combined for 32 hits as the Ultra Fast Hitters dominated the Lady Rising Suns all throughout to fashion out the 74-minute victory, their eighth straight counting the seven wins they posted in sweeping the elims.
Earlier, Jovelyn Gonzaga fired a team-best 15 hits, Dindin Manabat added 13 markers and Rachel Ann Daquis, Honey Royse Tubino and Mary Jean Balse chipped in 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively. But it was Carmina Aganon who shone in the stretch, churning out six hits in the last two sets, helping the Lady Troopers turn a 1-2 set deficit into a victory.
“The good thing about this team is that any player, if called upon, is ready to play and contribute,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman, who dispatched Aganon only in the fourth set after the Power Spikers battled back from an opening set setback to sweep the next two.
And the former National U standout rose the occasion, combining with Gonzaga, Daquis, Manabat, Balse and setter Tina Salak in the last two sets as the defending champions frustrated the Power Spikers, whom they also beat in four in the elims of the tournament presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
It was a sorry loss for Meralco, which swept its last two games in the elims to clinch the fourth and last semis berth in the tournament backed by Mikasa and Accel. But the Power Spikers just couldn’t sustain their form after a big comeback in the second and third sets and failed to withstand the Lady Troopers’ own fightback. Team Army ended up with 61 spikes against Meralco’s 46.
Charleen Cruz blasted in 12 kills while Aby Maraño rammed in 11 of her own with the duo coming through with four blocks apiece to finish with 17 and 16 points, respectively while Maica Morada tossed in 11 markers for Meralco.
But the Lady Troopers will need more than Aganon and their stars as they slug it out with the PLDT Home Ultera side in a keenly awaited rematch on Sunday to be shown live starting at 12:45 p.m. on GMA News TV Channel 11, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
Meanwhile, the Army-Meralco match will be shown Saturday at 1 p.m. while the PLDT-Cagayan duel will be aired Monday.