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PLDT overpowers Army; sends Finals to deciding Game Three

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Powered by an explosive effort from the MVP, and the Second Best Middle Blocker, the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters avenged their Game One loss and forced a do-or-die Game Three with a four set triumph over the Army Lady Troopers 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-18 in Game Two Shakey’s V-League Open Conference Finals at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.

Crowned MVP and First Best Outside Spiker before the match started, Alyssa Valdez again topped PLDT with a 26-point effort: which includes 20 attacks, four aces, and two blocks. Valdez’s National Team sidekick and this conference’s Second Best Middle Blocker, Jaja Santiago also had a marvelous outing for PLDT, scoring 20 points off 13 attacks, five blocks, and two aces. After sitting out PLDT’s last two matches due to a high right ankle sprain, Charo Soriano started for PLDT and contributed eight markers.

The Ultra Fast Hitters started the match off strong, utilizing an 8-0 run littered with Alyssa Valdez aces and Jaja Santiago blocks to forge an early 17-6 lead. PLDT preserved their hefty lead and subbed Alyssa Valdez out for Laurence Latigay when their lead grew to 22-9. Army went on a late run 7-1 run to cut the misfiring PLDT’s lead down to 23-16. PLDT Coach Roger Gorayeb then reinserted Alyssa Valdez in the lineup but she would not be involved in the last two points as a Daquis attack error and a Sasa Devanadera ace capped PLDT’s first set win.

Army worked out their reception problems in the following frame with a Tina Salak service ace that gave them a 13-7 lead. PLDT responded as Alyssa Valdez’s serves dumbfounded the Army receivers, trimming the Army lead down to two, 13-11. Army scored consecutive points to respond but PLDT rattled off another run capped by back-to-back Alyssa Valdez back row kills that gave PLDT the lead heading into the second technical timeout, 16-15. Ging Balse, Jovelyn Gonzaga, and Nene Bautista kept Army at pace momentarily until PLDT broke through and rattled off four consecutive attacks to arrive at set point relatively early at 24-20. Army wouldn’t go away quietly as Nene Bautista scored the next two points, forcing PLDT into a timeout. Jaja Santiago ended the set with a drop ball that the referees called dead, even if it appeared that Army Libero Tin Agno had pancaked the attack.

The Ultra Fast Hitters looked to have controlled the third set when they nibbled down another Army lead to tie at 14. The Lady Troopers, however, pushed through as Ging Balse scored thrice on a 5-0 run that gave Army a decisive 19-14 lead. Army held on and won their only set off steady floor defense and Ging Balse’s scoring.

Army’s reception became their downfall in the final set, as Rubie De Leon scored two aces on a 3-0 run that gave PLDT an 11-8 lead. Heavily contested calls that didn’t go their way greatly bogged down the Lady Troopers, allowing PLDT to get all the momentum down the stretch and close out the match. Valdez scored on three straight attacks followed by another Rubie De Leon ace that gave PLDT a sizable 21-13 lead that sealed that match for PLDT.

“Malaking bagay na nakuha namin ‘yung breaks ng laban, malaki naitulong noon sa morale ng mga bata. Wala naman din kaming ginawang mga adjustments sa game, nakakuha lang kami ng breaks saka maganda nilaro ng lahat ng players,” said Coach Gorayeb.

Ging Balse led all Lady Troopers with 17 points while the conference’s Best Opposite Hitter, Jovelyn Gonzaga pitched in 12 markers. The league’s Second Best Outside Hitter, Rachel Daquis had her second game subpar outing, notching only four points as she is still nursing a few nagging injuries according to Army Head Coach, Rico De Guzman.

Game Three will happen next Sunday, May 31 with the venue to be announced.

The Scores

PLDT (3) -Valdez 26, Santiago 20, Soriano 8, Roces 6, Soltones 4, De Leon 3, Devanadera 1, Kasilag 0, Ferrer 0, Latigay 0 Villanueva 0, Pantone (L), Lazaro (L)

Army (1) – Balse 17, Gonzaga 12, Manabat 9, Bautista 6, Salak 6, Daquis 4, Tubino 1, Gonzales 0, Agno (L), Torres (L)

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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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