The Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors looked like cellar-dwellers rather than champions in Game One of the Women’s Open Conference semifinals, and they knew it.
Succumbing in straight sets to a determined Hair Fairy-Air Force Lady Warriors, Pocari Sweat struggled in every facet of the game. Instead of bouncing back strong, the Lady Warriors fell behind in a must-win Game Two, 1-2 in sets.
With their hopes for a fourth straight PVL title slipping from their grasps, skipper Myla Pablo urged her teammates to keep fighting.
“Kinausap ko ‘yung team ko, sabi ko, ‘Ngayon pa ba tayo susuko? Ngayon pa ba tayo bibitaw? Lumaban naman tayo,'” Pablo recalled telling her teammates before a crucial fourth set.
“Nakinig namin sila lahat sa akin and nakining namam lahat sa mga gameplan ni coach Rico [De Guzman].”
The 23-year-old Tarlac-native fought, piling up 22 points, but, unlike Pocari Sweat’s past two games, she got some help from her teammates. Open hitter Elaine Kasilag provided 12 points, while Jeanette Panaga made up for her two-point output with 18 points in Pocari Sweat’s win.
The Lady Warriors sorely needed more offensive contributors to force a Game Three.
“Noong game one nga po kaming tatlo lang nila Mel [Gohing] at Gy [Sy] ang ‘di natira sa loob ng court. Hindi naman po namin kaya na kaming tatlo lang kaya naghanap talaga kami ng tulong mula sa iba naming teammates,” Pablo stressed.
Pocari head coach Sgt. Rico De Guzman has been visibly angry even in timeouts. But the Lady Warriors know they need De Guzman’s fiery sermons to keep them on track.
“Kapag nagagalit naman si coach Rico, normal lang,” said the three-time V-League Finals MVP. “Normal lang naman po sa coach na nagagalit. Kung anong sinasabi niya, tinatanggap lang namin. Once na hindi nagalit so coach sa amin, wala na siyang pake aa amin. Hindi naman din pwede na laruin namin ‘yung nilaro namin kahapon. Panget naman ‘yung ganoon.
“Champions kami, ganoon dapat laruin namin.”