2 p.m. – Cagayan vs Army
4 p.m. – PLDT vs Meralco
PLDT Home Ultera took the best dished out by last year’s best and proved this time it’s better, battling back from a set down and hacking out a tough 25-21, 24-26, 20-26, 26-24, 15-12 victory to clinch the first final berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference before a big Sunday crowd at The Arena in San Juan.
Cagayan Valley bounced back from a straight-set defeat to PLDT Home Ultera last Thursday as it clobbered Meralco, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21, in the other semis clash to remain in finals contention in the season-opening conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
Former MVP Aiza Maizo-Pontillas uncorked a 21-hit game, all in attacks, while Rosemarie Vargas, Janine Marciano, Marivic Meneses and Pau Soriano combined for 30 points as the Lady Rising Suns disposed of the Power Spikers in 1:25 to tie the Lady Troopers at 1-1.
Cagayan and Army clash tomorrow in the final semis playdate in a virtual do-or-die for the second finals seat with the winner disputing the crown with PLDT.
Meralco, led by Charleen Cruz’s 13 hits and Steph Mercado’s 10 points, bowed out of the finals race with a 0-2 card.
Earlier, National team mainstay Alyssa Valdez put in another solid outing, rallying the Ultra Fast Hitters late in the fourth and then spearheading the team’s early attack in the decider before Gretchel Soltones, another Phl team mainstay, took over to deliver the match-clinching attack that grazed the arms of Dindin Manabat that ended a grueling, back-and-forth 2:13 encounter.
“She’s not feeling good the past couple of weeks,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb of Valdez, who led the Philippines to a seventh place finish in the Asian Under-23 Championship at the Philsports Arena last week.
The victory was PLDT’s second straight in the Final Four after beating Cagayan Valle in three in the opener and ninth overall counting its sweep of the single round elims of the league where it all started as the Ultra Fast Hitters moved closer to the finals of the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s.
Valdez, fighting off colds and the tough Army net defense, unloaded nine hits in the fifth set, including three straight to open the decider and attacks off the block and from the second row off superb sets by Rubie de Leon.
Jaja Santiago and Soltones added two apiece but the Ultra Fast Hitters also needed tough defensive stand to thwart the rallying Lady Troopers, who threatened last at 12-14 when Valdez smashed a back-row attack into the net.
Army, which held off Meralco, also in five, Thursday, dropped to 1-1 but can nail the other finals berth in the conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera and backed by Mikasa and Accel with a victory over Cagayan Tuesday.
Valdez wound up with 35 hits, including a whopping 33 kills, while Santiago, a noted shot blocker, went on attack mode and fired 20 hits while skipper Sue Roces and Soltones chipped in 10 markers each.
Last year’s MVP Jovelyn Gonzaga unleashed a 14-hit game while Manabat, Mary Jean Balse and Honey Royse Tubino each scored 13 hits for the defending champions, who came away with eight blocks in the highly spirited duel of the league’s powerhouse teams in a match beamed live over GMA News TV Channel 11.
After dropping the opening set, the Lady Troopers surprised the Ultra Fast Hitters with strong starts in the next two frames to go 2-1 but blew 23-22 and 24-23 leads in the fourth with mishits as Santiago unloaded back-to-back power tips before Soltones rammed in an attack off Daquis to send the game to a fifth.
A four-set win over Army would’ve actually netted PLDT the first finals berth but the five-set result kept the race to the finals wide open pending the results of the remaining semis matches.