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Another Giant Bites the Dust: PLDT takes down Cagayan

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The PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters overwhelmed another local volleyball institution, demolishing the Cagayan Valley Lady Rising Suns in four sets 25-20, 25-22, 26-28, 25-18 in the first round of eliminations in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference.

PLDT’s two MVPs, Alyssa Valdez and Gretchel Soltones delivered masterful offensive outings. Valdez nabbed a game-high 25 points off 22 attacks, two aces, and a block. Soltones sizzled for 21 points off 19 attacks and two blocks. Cagayan team captain, Angge Tabaquero sprained her right shoulder in the second set and had to leave the game. Tabaquero finished the match with two points.

The Ultra Fast Hitters blitzed Cagayan’s defense early, taking a 15-9 lead as Valdez and Soltones quelled any Cagayan attempt to regain form. Soltones and Valdez combined for 14 points in the set, giving PLDT a convincing set win.

Cagayan quickly responded in the following set and took a 3-0 lead early but PLDT’s counterattack was swift. PLDT tied the set at five, and matched any Cagayan rally. Both teams traded hold of the lead until PLDT broke through and took the lead for good at 22-20. A Jaja Santiago block followed by another Rubie De Leon stuffed hit gave PLDT a decisive 2-0 set lead.

Cagayan’s only set win was marred with a controversial call late in the set. Cagayan fought hard, slowly nibbling at a five-point PLDT advantage to knot the set at 22. A Rose Marie Vargas pancake dig was called by the first referee, prompting ruckus crowd reactions. After much deliberation, the first referee overturned his initial call, taking away PLDT’s point to the dismay of Coach Roger Gorayeb.

“Wala naman tayong ganoong rule [challenging a referee’s call] dito sa Philippines. The referee’s decision should have been final,” said Gorayeb after the match.

The point overrule turned out to be huge as PLDT won the next two points, taking first crack at set point at 24-22. Cagayan forced a deuce off splendid attacking from Janine Marciano and Rose Marie Vargas. PLDT took two set point advantages but Cagayan’s timely insertion of the 6’0 Ria Meneses allowed them to survive off of their blocking. A Valdez attack that banged off of two blockers’ hands tied the set 26 but Cagayan’s Vargas got a kill in the following point followed by an Aiza Maizo-Pontillas block that sealed the set for Cagayan.

PLDT blew off their steam in the fourth set, slowly crushing Cagayan’s will to fight. PLDT jousted with Cagayan eventually building a decisive five-point lead at 18-13. Cagayan seemed weary and could not deliver another counter punch to keep themselves alive for the rest of the set.

PLDT gathered 62 attack points to Cagayan’s 46. Janine Marciano had 19 points for Cagayan while stalwart, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas had 13 markers. Vargas, who replaced Tabaquero in the lineup, netted nine markers.

PLDT remains on top of the league with a 4-0 slate while Cagayan falls to third with a 2-1 record.

PLDT has the Navy Lady Sailors next on April 23 while PLDT. Cagayan’s next match also comes against Navy on April 26.

The Scores:

PLDT (3) – Valdez 25, Soltones 21, Santiago 12, Roces 7, Soriano 7, De Leon 4, Kasilag 0, Villanueva 0, Mendiola 0, Ferrer 0, Pantone (L), Lazaro (L)

Cagayan (1) – Marciano 19, Maizo-Pontillas 13, Vargas 9, Soriano 6, Meneses 6, Tabaquero 2, Eulalio 2, Saet 2, Sy 0, Benito 0, Pineda (L)

Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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