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Five things concern Army coach heading into PLDT grudge match

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The Philippine Army Lady Troopers were one win away from winning another Shakey’s V-League plum but the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters played the role of spoiler, winning the game in four sets 16-25, 22-25, 25-19, 18-25, to force a winner-takes-all match this coming Sunday.

Recently crowned Open Conference MVP Alyssa Valdez once again on full throttle as she dropped 26 points while PLDT’s tower of power Jaja Santiago lit up for 20 points and 5 blocks.

On the other hand, Ging Balse was the surprise player of the game as she led Army with 17 points and 6 blocks while Jovelyn Gonzaga, who was recently crowned as the V-League Season 12 Open Conference Best Opposite Spiker, had 12 points, 3 blocks, and 11 digs.

By mere observation of the game, PLDT made adjustments that shook off Army’s momentum, which they gained from the opening game of the championship series. Army was on full assault mode in the opening game, but PLDT’s counterattack forced them to sit idly by in the corner.

Now with their backs against the wall, Army head coach Rico De Guzman heads back to the drawing board and has five things to fix in his checklist.

Defense, defense, and more defense

SVL Finals Game2 PLDTvsArmy-3188

Entering into the game, Army’s plan was clearly evident: Wear the enemy down with tenacious net and floor defense.

However, the Lady Troopers’ planned mode of attack that was on full display during the opening game was nowhere to be found in this one. The team’s blocking and floor defense went south and PLDT was able to capitalize on it.

In the first game, Army successfully subdued the Ultra Fast Hitters’ attacks by using multiple sets of blockers towards their high-octane hitters. If an attack gets through, Army showcased their gritty floor defense that kept the ball alive.

Come the second game, everything that the Lady Troopers did collapsed as PLDT imposed its will and completely erased their opponent’s strong defense to a pulp.

“Kung baga iyong blocking namin noong Game One lumabas at iyong floor defense namin lumabas din. Pero baliktad ngayon [Game Two] kasi nawala iyong blocking namin, floor defense, at yung receive, nawala lahat,” De Guzman further explained.

But, with everything on the line come Sunday, De Guzman badly needs his team to gang up and impose their game plan effectively against a very strong opponent. There is simply no room for error this time around with the stakes of the game very high.

“Siguro sa Game Three nandoon na lahat. Wala na siguro na makikita na maraming error at siguro controlled na namin kasi iyon na lang ang game,” De Guzman added. “Wala nang Game Four, Game Five, dahil hanggang Game Three na lang iyan. So ilalabas na namin lahat doon.”

The Daquis dilemma

SVL ArmyvsBaguio-4007

In this Finals series, former Queen Tamaraw Rachel Ann Daquis, has been subpar in terms of her on-court performance. In two games played, she only managed to score a point in Game One while fuming out with a four-point feat in Game Two.

Already a proven player on her own right, Daquis is one of Army’s go-to options in the offensive end. She may not be as lethal as Valdez but she definitely can hold her own and produce points in bunches, given her prowess in launching loaded spikes.

However, the problem with the current Philippine team outside hitter is her overall health. Her coach recently revealed that she is dealing with a sore shoulder. It is not that serious and her team has high hopes that she will be a hundred percent come their rubber match.

“Masakit lang balikat niya at nagpapagaling lang. Hindi naman malala at kaya pa naman niya at makakarecover siya,” De Guzman elaborated further on Daquis’ current state. “Makakarecover iyan, nag-eexpect kami sa kanya na tataas ang laro niya sa Game Three.”

Containing PLDT’s two-headed beast

SVL PLDTvsArmy-1063

Whenever any team faces PLDT, the dynamic duo of Valdez and Santiago immediately enters the scene.

As everyone may know, Valdez packs the most lethal offensive arsenal in the league today by showcasing very powerful hits coupled with a series of smartly-placed drop balls. Moreover, her international experience made her even deadlier compared to her earlier playing years.

In Game One, Army’s plan of wearing down Valdez through multiple blocking patterns and steady floor defense worked effectively but carefully-planned adjustments ultimately opened up a lot of attack opportunities for her in the following game which made the Lady Troopers scramble for answers.

“Ilan lang ang na-block namin kay Valdez [in Game Two], konti lang. Hindi katulad noong Game One, puro drop ball na lang ginawa nila kasi puro blocked sila,” De Guzman further discussed. “Ngayon [Game Two] kasi hindi namin sila ma-block kaya pinaluan kami ng pinaluan. Wala rin kaming floor defense at receive kaya isa rin iyon sa mga dahilan kaya bumaba ang laro namin.”

On the other hand, Santiago improved leaps and bounds in the past months as she got the chance to be mentored by former Ateneo head coach and current National University honcho Roger Gorayeb in the UAAP. Her learning experience didn’t stop on that mark as she eventually found herself representing the country, and at the same time catching the eye of fellow Asian neighbors, in the recently concluded Asian Volleyball Confederation U23 Women’s Volleyball Championship.

Now, the 6-foot-5 middle blocker showcases the most power-packed quick attack in the country and has shown tremendous upside towards her serving and blocking skills. In the ongoing series, she has been a handful for Army so far especially when she is in the frontline of PLDT’s rotation.

“Talagang mahirap silang bantayan lalo na sa service kasi malaki ang improvement ni Jaja,” De Guzman added. “Compared doon sa mga dating laro niya, kahit ako nagulat sa ginagalaw niya kasi napakagaling na niya.”

“Siyempre kung si Jaja sa unahan, kung kailangan talagang three-man block kami, three-man block ang gagawin namin sa kanya. Kung sa service area naman siya, hindi lang libero ang may difference sa amin kasi halos lahat nagkakaroon ng error. Ilan na ang pinapatay niyan sa amin, dapat harapan siya ng receive para tumalbog man lang at mahabol natin. Ang nangyari kasi talbog sa labas at naging points agad sa kabila. So mag-double time kami sa receive lalo na pag si Jaja ang nasa service area.”

Dictating the tempo

SVL Finals Game 1 ArmyvsPLDT-2960

One of the obvious differences between the two teams is their huge age gap. In Game One, Army relied on its veteran savvy to prevent PLDT from playing their usual briskly pace. With their carefully timed blockings and excellent floor defense that all ran through their preferred pace, it was enough for Army to take a 1-0 series lead.

But in the second game, everything went into PLDT’s way as they purposely exhausted Army’s floor defense to the point that their players became fatigued and sluggish. With that strategy, PLDT’s attackers immediately uncorked strong spike after strong spike to keep the opposition weary legs run until they get tired.

Finding that trend alarming, De Guzman further stressed that Army must play wiser in their next bout to avoid being helplessly sideswiped again. They must also play smarter defense when the opposition’s momentum is building up.

“Ito [PLDT] mabibilis. So nakita ko hindi na kami sumasabay sa bilis noong mga bata sa floor defense at doon kami natatalo. Napakarami nila nadepensahan sa ilalim at kami umaasa sa opensa lang,” De Guzman further elaborated. “Ang nangyayari sa amin sa likod, inaasahan namin na patay na agad opensa nila.”

Missing ally needed

SVL ArmyvsNavy-1871

As majority would’ve noticed, the Lady Troopers are missing the services of Carmina Aganon who recently wrapped up her duties for the Philippine Seniors Women’s Volleyball team that recently placed 12th in the 2015 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship that took place in Tianjin, China.

With her absence, Army was forced to put open spiker Nene Bautista to be the backup opposite hitter in case Gonzaga needed a break. In addition, Aganon’s newly-acquired international experience will certainly be a big plus for her team’s side.

“Iyon din ang isang problema ko kasi kulang kami ng opposite. Iyong kapalitan ni Jovelyn, kapag nag 4-2 [offense] kami, wala siyang kapalitan. Ang ginagawa ko ngayon is alternating na lang sila ni Nene [Bautista]. Imbis na si Nene ang magamit ko sa outside, nagiging opposite siya kasi hindi naman niya trabaho iyon,” De Guzman added. “Malaking kalawan naman sa amin iyon, ang pagkawala ni Mina. Kung makahabol siya sa 31 eh di mas maganda kasi kumpleto na kami.”

The third game of this championship series will be this coming Sunday, 12:45 pm, at the Filoil Flying V Arena. The game will be aired live on GMA News TV Channel 11.

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Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Basketball

Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup

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Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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NCAA

Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win

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Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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