For three conferences, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors were flat-out dominating, winning three straight championships and creating a dynasty.
However, the Bali Pure Purest Water Defenders, tired of playing bridesmaids, had vengeance on their minds, dethroning Pocari Sweat by way of a four-set Game Two win, 25-20, 19-25, 25-23, 26-24, Wednesday evening at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
“Nung nag-umpisa kami, we almost didn’t make it to the semis. Nung nanalo kami sa Pocari, dun lang kami pumasok,” reflected an emotional coach Roger Gorayeb. “Pagpasok ng semis, we lost the first game, again the girls persevered. Pagdating ngayon, iba na yung karakter nila.”
Grethcel Soltones, the only remnant of the original Bali Pure team back in 2016, tallied 21 points, 17 from attacks, three from aces, and a kill block. The 21-year old was also crowned as the Finals Most Valuable Player, scoring 14 points in Bali Pure’s three-set Game One triumph.
“Masaya siyempre kasi pinaghirapan namin as a team. As a team din, marami kaming pinagdaanan,” said Soltones, who last won a championship back in 2015 during the Reinforced Conference with the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters.
But Bali Pure needed to earn the championship, figuring in a tight contest compared to the series opener.
Known for their way of rallying back in the face of adversity, Pocari Sweat were able to win their first set against Bali Pure in a 25-19 second set win that tied the contest.
Again in the third set, the Lady Warriors fought back from a 14-20 deficit, tying the game at 23-all. But Soltones then took it upon herself to give her team the edge, finding the hole to give Bali Pure the advantage.
“Alam mo naman si Grethcel e, kahit sigawan ko, makikinig at makikinig. Tulad ng third set, hinabol kami, sabi ko, simple lang yan, kung nakita mo, i-drop mo. Yun na nga yung nangyari,” said Gorayeb.
Myla Pablo, who was still experiencing stomach cramps, mustered all her remaining strength to try to extend the contest. Down 21-19, the Conference MVP connected with a crosscourt kill the sparked a 3-0 run to give Pocari Sweat a 22-21 lead. An Aiko Urdas tip stopped the Lady Warriors’ run, while back-to-back kill blocks by Macy Mendiola against Pablo sent Bali Pure to just a point away from the championship. A Kai Nepomuceno tip and a net touch by Urdas sent the set into a deuce.
With the game knotted at 24-all in the fourth set, Bali Pure did not allow the match to reach a do-or-die set. An emphatic kill by Grethcel Soltones sent the Purest Water Defenders to championship point, while a witty dump by Jasmine Nabor gave Bali Pure the championship that had eluded them the past three conferences.
“I didn’t look at is as makakabawi ako sa Pocari. Regardless kung sino man yan, lalaro kami nang mahusay talaga. Lalaro tayo para mag-champion tayo kahit sino yan,” declared Gorayeb.
Urdas and Risa Sato chipped in 16 and 15 points respectively, while Nabor, who was limited in Game One due to a stiff neck, tossed 40 excellent sets.
“I was always talking to Jasmine, siya lagi ang key dun e. Diskarte ng setter talaga e,” Gorayeb remarked about Nabor, who will return to the National University Lady Bulldogs next conference.
Pablo finished with 21 points, while Napomuceno added 16 markers.
Bali Pure (3) – Soltones 21, Urdas 16, Sato 15, Nabor 8, Malabanan 7, Mendiola 5, Cayuna 1, Singh 0, Gata-Pantone (L)
Pocari Sweat (1) – Pablo 21, Nepomuceno 16, De Leon 7, Guino-o 5, Kasilag 5, Kasilag 4, Dadang 4, Panaga 3, Serafica 0, Cainglet-Cayetano 0, Gohing (L)