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Valdez, PLDT down Army in surprising sweep

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Finally debuting their vaunted lineup of offensive prodigies, the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Lady Hitters took out the Army Lady Troopers in three tight sets 25-16, 25-23, 28-26 in the first round of eliminations in the Shakey’s V-League, at the San Juan Arena.

In her first game this season, Alyssa Valdez immediately imposed her dominance, delivering 19 markers, 15 off attacks. The two-time UAAP MVP, Valdez displayed her wide array of attacks, utilizing not only her powerful spikes, but also bamboozling the Army defense with her off-speed hits, scoring seven points off such attempts. PLDT’s Jaja Santiago took care of family business, outscoring elder sister, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, 10-7.

There was something visibly wrong with Army’s play in the beginning of the match, as the usually composed veterans coughed up routine errors allowing PLDT to take the first set comfortably. Army slotted in Santiago-Manabat in the following frame, and the former Lady Bulldog immediately delivered three points to push her team ahead 8-6. From there, Army showed the composure lacking in the opening set, and kept up the offensive pressure until PLDT turned the jets on with Army ahead 14-12. Alyssa Valdez dropped a patented floater, which sparked a run, that pulled them ahead 19-14. Dindin scored off a quick attack, and delivered loaded serves that tied the match at 19. Both teams, then, struggled to take control of momentum, but PLDT ultimately grabbed hold of the set after an unlikely contribution from their reserve open hitter, Elaine Kasilag, who notched a clutch ace and attacked down the final stretch of the set.

It seemed that Army was going to go down easily in the third set after they gave up another early advantage to PLDT at 7-3. However, Army slowly nibbled at the lead, eventually taking a 15-13 advantage midway through the set. Army’s Rachelle Anne Daquis and Jing Balse tried valiantly to match PLDT’s Santiago-Valdez onslaught, but Army eventually gave way after Alyssa Valdez placed PLDT at match point, 24-22. Surrendering two consecutive errors, PLDT almost opened the door for Army to extend the match with the Lady Troopers grabbing two set point advantages in the deuce. It was, however, PLDT’s blocking and floor defense that saved them in the end, as an Alyssa Valdez block on Manabat gave PLDT the match.

“First time din naming nagaksama-sama ngayon,” said PLDT Coach Roger Gorayeb about his team’s preparation. “Si Alyssa kasi humingi ng pahinga, pinagbigyan ko naman kasi kakagaling nga lang naman niya ng UAAP. Kahapon din sa ensayo wala ‘yung mga libero ko kaya maganda na naipakita naming ‘yung laro naming ngayon.”

None of the Lady Troopers cracked double digits as they were led by Daquis’ nine points, while Nene Bautista, Tina Salak, Jing Balse, and Manabat, all contributed seven points.

PLDT will face the Coast Guard Lady Dolphins on Tuesday, while Army has the Navy Lady Sailors on the same day.

The Scores:

PLDT (3) – Valdez 19, Roces 10, Santiago 10, Kasilag 6, Soriano 4, Soltones 4, De Leon 4, Villanueva 0, Ferrer 0, Latigay 0, Mendiola 0, Pantone (L), Lazaro (L)

Army (0) – Daquis 9, Bautista 7, Manabat 7, Balse 7, Salak 7, Carolino 2, Bunag 2, Aganon 1, Sabas 0, 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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