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Shopinas inches past Foton, takes Finals seat

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In their second match in four days, the Shopinas.com Lady Clickers once again made all the big plays down the stretch to edge the Foton Tornadoes in five sets 22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 21-25, 17-15, booking a Finals rematch with the Petron Blaze Spikers in the PSL All-Filipino Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The Lady Clickers have their veterans to thank for their triumph over their budding young rivals. La Sallians, Paneng Mercado and Cha Cruz delivered massive scoring performances with 24 and 21 points respectively. Team captain, Mic-mic Laborte sat out most of the match due to a nagging knee injury, but when her number was called late in the fifth set, the veteran delivered, as her blocking was critical in pulling her team out of the deuce. Nationalian, Bia General compiled the most impressive stat line of any Libero this season as her omnipresent defense yielded 23 excellent digs and 34 excellent receptions.

Foton’s outside hitters all had an incredible game as their firepower shook Shopinas’ usually sound defense. Unfortunately, they couldn’t vary their attacks enough late in the fifth set to get the necessary points off Shopinas, who saw their attacks coming. The Diliman Dynamite, Nicole Tiamzon, led her team in scoring with 22 points, UST’s Pam Lastimosa added 20, while Bacolod product, Patty Orendain, dished out 18 markers in the loss.

The teams traded haymakers in the first four sets. The first two sets were incredibly tight affairs where Foton’s offense managed to buoy them ahead in the first set, while Shopinas recieved clutch contributions from bench players, Denden Tan and Arianna Angustia that allowed them to steal the second set.

With the third frame tied at 17, Shopinas vaulted ahead behind a 6-0 run as Foton’s service reception left them momentarily, giving Shopinas the necessary boost to win the set. Foton was ahead by two for much of the fourth frame and was up 14-11 when Shopinas reinserted Micmic Laborte, who sparked a 3-0 run that tied the set. Foton scored two consecutive points from there and delivered on every return kill chance they got to force a deciding fifth set.

The final set saw both teams go on a seemingly endless back and forth sequence. Shopinas took first crack at match point after Paneng Mercado crushed an attack down the sideline, but Foton quickly countered and forced a deuce, 14-14, with a Patty Orendain kill. Foton had their crack at match point when Nicole Tiamzon put the ahead with a crosscourt bullet, but Shopinas responded with a Paneng Mercado combination play. Micmic Laborte stuffed a Nicole Tiamzon cross court hit perfectly to put Shopinas at advantage then Rizza Mandapat finally ended the match with a service ace.

Shopinas now looks to topple the undefeated Petron Blaze Spikers in the best-of-three Finals with Game One taking place at Imus Cavite on May 11. Petron defeated Shopinas (Formerly Generika) in last season’s PSL Grand Prix.

The Scores:

Shopinas.com (3) – Mercado 24, Cruz 21, Dy 12, Mandapat 9, Laborte 5, Angustia 3, Hingpit 2, Cheng 1, Tiu 1, Tan 1, General (L)

Foton (2) – Tiamzon 22, Lastimosa 20, Orendain 18, Remulla 8, Araneta 7, Macatuno 1, Pantaleon (L), Acevedo (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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