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PLDT shackle untouchable Army in Valdez return, take game one of the finals



The PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters rose from a two-sets-to-none deficit and gave the Philippine Army Lady Troopers their first loss in Shakeys V-League Reinforced Conference with a 16-25, 20-25, 26-24, 29-27, 18-16 victory in Game One of the Finals at the FilOil Flying V Arena, Saturday afternoon.

The Ultra Fast Hitters, struggling to receive serves and to control their errors, coughed up the opening set as Jovelyn Gonzaga and Honey Royse Tubino poured their attacks on a hapless PLDT floor defense.

Finally, after reports had emerged a few days back that she would play on the Finals, Alyssa Valdez showed up in a PLDT uniform in the second set, scoring seven points in the set alone and making the Lady Troopers’ defense scramble to contain the two-time UAAP MVP. Valdez helped PLDT to play a nip-and-tuck set against the Lady Troopers. However, Jovelyn Gonzaga bailed out Army, with a dropshot for a 22-20 lead. Valdez then committed an attack error to widen the gap at 23-20, and two straight attack errors from Gretchel Soltones put PLDT at a two sets to none disadvantage.

In the following set PLDT and Army continued to exchange attacks and errors that forced several deadlocks. The Lady Troopers led at 24-23 thanks to timely attacks from Aby Maraño and Gonzaga, but Valdez unloaded a kill and an ace to give PLDT a 25-24 advantage. A dump ball from Rubie De Leon extended the match for the Ultra Fast Hitters.

Leading comfortably, 21-16, at the fourth set, PLDT’s Gretchel Soltones led the barrage of attacks for PLDT against Army to trim a five-point deficit down to 22-21, despite not playing imports Victoria Hurtt and Sareena Freeman for majority of the set. Both teams once again exchanged attacks and errors that tied things at 25-all. Battling through an extended deuce, PLDT eventually broke away and tied it at two sets apiece through late attacks from Soltones and Valdez.

PLDT quickly established a 10-5 lead in the fifth set with Valdez and Soltones leading the charge again. But the Lady Troopers caught up thanks to PLDT’s errors and timely attacks from Tubino, Maraño, and Joanna Bunag, eventually getting a crack at match point at 16-15. But Army committed a net touch error and Roces unleashed a runner for a 17-16 advantage to PLDT. Finally, Bunag overcooked her down-the-line stab, handing PLDT the win.

“Hindi namin na-maximize (‘yung mga imports). Sana next week maayos namin at mabawasan ang errors,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb as they committed a tournament-worst 48 errors.

“Both teams, ayaw magpaawat – parehas may puso sa laro ang mga bata pati na rin ‘yung Amry,” Gorayeb added as they came back from a two sets deficit against the previously undefeated Lady Troopers.

Valdez unloaded 25 points and added seven digs while Soltones chipped in 12 markers. Setter Rubie De Leon tossed 30 excellent sets.

Gonzaga scored 19 points to pace the Army offense while Tubino and Marano contributed 16 and 14 markers apiece. Tina Salak had 29 excellent sets.

PLDT will try to clinch the V-League Conference crown against in Game Two on December 6, 3:00 PM at the same venue.

The Scores:

PLDT (3) – Valdez 25, Soltones 12, Pontillas 11, Hurtt 8, Roces 7, Freeman 5, De Leon 4, Marciano 2, Soriano 2, Devanadera 0, Latigay 0, Pantone(L)

PHI Army (2) – Gonzaga 19, Tubino 16, Marano 15, Bautista 8, Salak 7, Balse 3, Bunag 1, Carolino 0, Gonzales 0, Palma 0,Siatan-Torres(L), Agno(L)

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