Lady Stags survive Eagles, share lead

Army    3       0
SSC     3       0
Ateneo  1       2
Navy    1       2
Air Force       1       2
Maynilad        0       3

Games Thursday
2 p.m. – Navy vs Ateneo
4 p.m. – SSC vs Army

San Sebastian fended off Ateneo’s stubborn stand and escaped with a 25-22, 25-16, 24-26, 27-29, 15-9 victory to notch its third straight win and tie Army at the helm in the quarterfinal round of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan, Tuesday.
The Lady Stags drew a whopping 32-hit performance from American import Lauren Ford and a combined 60-point output from five other players as they recovered their bearing in the decider to repulse the Lady Eagles in a thrilling 1:55-hour encounter.
But the scrambling win didn’t augur well for SSC’s preparation for its keenly awaited duel with Army tomorrow when the unbeaten teams duel for the first Final Four berth in the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.
Alyssa Valdez unloaded 28 hits while Fille Cainglet added 18 kills as the Eagles battled back from two sets to win the next two, only to fizzle out in the end. They dropped to 1-2 in a three-way tie with Navy and Air Force.
Earlier, Air Force survived a fierce Maynilad fightback in the third set as it completed a 25-17, 25-17, 26-24 victory to bounce into contention.
A timely timeout by Air Force coach Ariel dela Cruz stalled the Water Dragons’ momentum as the Airwomen strung up four straight points to turn a 22-24 deficit into a two-point win with Jennifer Manzano clinching the 70-minute victory for Air Force with a kill after an exchange of spikes.
The win was Air Force’s first after back-to-back losses in the single round quarters as it joined Navy in fourth while dampening Maynilad’s semifinal chances in the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Accel, Mikasa and Maynilad Water.
Maynilad slid to 0-3 and would need to sweep its last two games against Army and San Sebastian and hope Ateneo, Navy and Air Force not to win more than two games to force a playoff for the last semis berth.
It was sorry loss by the Water Dragons, who showed a big fighting heart in coming back from a big deficit in the third to force a deadlock twice, the last at 22 on a quick play anchored on Nica Guliman.
Syvie Artates then scored on a block off Jennifer Manzano to give Maynilad its first taste of the lead then added a kill for a two-point cushion.
But dela Cruz sued for time and Air Force quickly scored behind Irish Patrona before Amelia Guanco scored off a seemingly soft serve that the Water Dragons had failed to return.
The Airwomen regained the lead at 25-24 on another Patrona attack then after a brief rally, Manzano soared to deliver the clincher.
“We have to focus on our defense and reception if we want to win our last two games,” said Patrona, who emerged the game’s best player with 11 kills and five digs.
The left-handed Aiza Maizo topscored for Air Force with 15 hits, including 14 attacks, while Guanco added nine points and Liza Deramos, Wendy Semana and Manzano combined for 14 hits.
Artates wound up with 11 hits, the same output put in by Mervic Mangui, who starred in Maynilad’s rally in the third with her vicious kills. But top hitter Joy Cases continued to struggle, finishing with just seven hits while Guliman added five points.
Meanwhile, the Air Force-Maynilad match will be aired on Wednesday on NBN 4 starting at 2 p.m. an on GMA-7’s international channels GMA Pinoy TV, GMA LifeTV and GMA News TV, according to the organizing Sports Vision.(pr)

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