Lady Warriors foil Water Defenders, reach V-L finals

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Elaine Kasilag fired away three consecutive kills in the fourth set as Pocari Sweat survived BaliPure in a fierce duel of power and nerves, 15-25, 27-25, 25-11, 25-23, to clinch the second finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference before a big Monday crowd at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

The Lady Warriors came back strong from an opening set blowout with Myla Pablo taking over and hammering in crisp kills and the rest backing her up with superb floor and net defense and solid blocking to take the next two before Kasilag took over to deliver the hits at endgame.

Pocari Sweat’s Michelle Gumabao (7) goes for a kill against BaliPure’s Alyssa Valdez during their sudden death for the second finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.
Pocari Sweat’s Michelle Gumabao (7) goes for a kill against BaliPure’s Alyssa Valdez during their sudden death for the second finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.

It was a rousing victory for Pocari Sweat, which battled back from a stinging setback in the opener of their best-of-three series before snatching a highly-emotional five-set victory in Game Two late Saturday, setting the stage for last night’s sudden death.

Pocari Sweat and first finalist Air Force begin their title showdown, another best-of-three affair, on July 13 as the league gives way to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament starting at the MOA Arena tonight.

The Lady Jet Spikers swept the Laoag Power Smashers in their side of the Final Four of the season-opening conference of the country’s premier women’s volley league sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa and Accel.

For a while, the Water Defenders, starring the power-hitting former MVP Alyssa Valdez, looked headed for an easy outing after thumping the Lady Warriors with a seven-point romp in the opening set. But Pablo, Kasilag and Michelle Gumabao combined to rally the team in an extended second set duel before coasting to a third-set romp.

Pablo came away with 26 hits, including 22 attack points, while Kasilag rammed in 18 kills and finished with 21 points. Gumabao added 15 markers.

BaliPure’s ace hitter Alyssa Valdez (2) reacts after hammering in a kill against Pocari Sweat’s Elaine Kasilag and Lutgarda Malaluan during their sudden death for the second finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.
BaliPure’s ace hitter Alyssa Valdez (2) reacts after hammering in a kill against Pocari Sweat’s Elaine Kasilag and Lutgarda Malaluan during their sudden death for the second finals berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference.

Lutgarda Malaluan also anchored Pocari’s solid defense upfront, coming through with four blocks to complement with Pablo’s three with the Lady Warriors finishing with 11 against the Water Defenders’ five blocks in the game aired live over ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23.

“We knew we needed our blocking to work for us to have chance,” said Pocari interim coach Rommel Abella.

The Lady Warriors also held Valdez to 15 hits with Cebuana Gretchel Soltones topscoring for BaliPure with 19 points and Amy Ahomiro chipping in 13 markers.

Earlier, Air Force leaned on its pair of talented rookie recruits Fauzi Ismail and Howard Mojica as it pulled the rug from under erstwhile unbeaten Cignal, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19, Monday in Game One of the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Open Conference Finals.

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