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Valdez’s 35 powers PLDT past tough Lady Troopers



Two-time UAAP MVP, Alyssa Valdez persisted through illness and tied a career-high 35 points, leading the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters past the hardened veterans of the Army Lady Troopers in five sets 25-21, 24-26, 25-20, 26-24, 15-12 in the second elimination phase of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference at the FilOil Flying-V Arena early Sunday afternoon.

Still undefeated this conference, PLDT used their overwhelming offensive arsenal to overcome their putrid 39 errors. The Ultra Fast Hitters worked on their sizable attacking advantage throughout the match, finishing with a 65-57 spiking gap and continually poked at Army’s early service reception futility, tallying 11 aces to Army’s four.

This match was the second time Valdez scored 35 points in her career, the first coming in the in a second round, five-set loss in UAAP Season 75 against the Adamson Lady Falcons. NU’s Jaja Santiago paced the PLDT offense, contributing 20 points as she came alive in the final two sets of the match.

PLDT pounced on an error-plagued Army side in the first set, tallying five aces in the set and getting numerous free balls, which they converted easily into attack points. The PLDT lead grew to as much as seven, 17-10, before Army made a late push coming from the team’s rejuvenated floor defense that trimmed the PLDT advantage down to as much as one, 21-20. Army’s reception problems resurfaced in the final stretch of the match, allowing PLDT to take the set by winning four of the next five points.

Army tied the loose ends of their defense for the rest of the match and made PLDT work hard to power through their blocking and digging. PLDT suffered a game-changing setback when their starting middle blocker, Charo Soriano went down with a right ankle injury early in the second set. Nevertheless, PLDT still managed to match Army point-for-point in the second frame, and even taking the match to a deuce. However, the Ultra Fast Hitters just could not muster a last ditch effort to score late in that set as Valdez was in the back row. Army’s utilization of NCAA MVP Honey Royse Tubino in the second frame paid off as she scored the point that gave them advantage in the deuce that Tina Salak finished with an emphatic block on Alyssa Valdez.

The Lady Troopers pulled away in the middle of the third set with PLDT coughing up errors. PLDT also lost their offensive groove making way for Army’s largest advantage at 18-12. Army finished the set with a coordinated balanced attack that put PLDT behind 1-2 in sets for the second time this season.

The fourth set saw the kindling of Alyssa Valdez’s fire as she scored 10 points in that frame alone. PLDT had a sizable five-point lead, 16-11 at one point that Army managed to slowly nibble away to knot the set at 21. Army managed to get first crack at set point with a Jovelyn Gonzaga off-the-block kill which PLDT answered by going to Jaja Santiago for two straight quick kills that put PLDT at advantage. Royse Tubino rocketed an attack long that sent the match into a fifth frame. Valdez continued her roll in the final set, scoring eight of her team’s fifteen points to carry her teammates to their ninth win of the season.

Army pulled double-digit outings from four of their veterans. Lefty opposite hitter, Jovelyn Gonzaga topped the Lady Troppers with 14 points while Jing Balse, Royse Tubino, and Dindin Santiago-Manabat all had 13 markers.

“Ang sabi ko sa mga bata ‘wag na nila isipin ‘yung first round. Tapos na ‘yun. Kailangan namin manalo pa ng manalo para makapasok sa Finals. Buti na lang maganda nilaro ng mga bata. Ang sabi ko kay Alyssa nung last two sets, kalilangan niya buhatin ‘yung mga teammates niya kasi bumababa ‘yung energy nila. Mabuti na lang maganda pa rin ‘yung nilaro niya. May ubo’t sipon pa yan sa lagay na yan,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb.

Both Army and PLDT still need to win their remaining matches to guarantee spots in the finals. PLDT has the Meralco Power Spikers next while Army renews its rivalry with the Cagayan Valley Lady Rising Suns. Both matches will be played this Tuesday.

The Score

PLDT (3) – Valdez 35, Santiago 20, Soltones 10, Roces 10, De Leon 2, Devanadera 2, Soriano 2, Villanueva 0, Ferrer 0, Latigay 0, Pantone (L), Lazaro (L)

Army (2) – Gonzaga 14, Manabat 13, Tubino 13, Balse 13, Salak 7, Daquis 7, Bautista 2, Aganon 0, Gonzales 0, Agno (L), Torres (L)


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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