Game Sunday (Semifinals)
2 p.m. – Army vs Ateneo
4 p.m. – SSC vs Navy
Ateneo used a strong start and a stronger finish in the fifth set to ground Air Force, 25-23, 11-25, 25-17, 19-25, 15-9, and clinch the last Final Four berth in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan, Thursday.
The Lady Eagles took the first five points in the decider, but wavered to enable the Airwomen to draw level at 7 before regrouping to win eight of the last 10 points, including four straight to wrap up the 1:55-hour playoff for the fourth semis slot in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.
More importantly, it kept Ateneo’s bid for a sweep of the season’s titles alive.
But the first conference champion will have top seed Army as it Final Four opponent with San Sebastian and Navy clashing for the other finals seat in a pair of best-of-three duels starting Sunday.
Alyssa Valdez and Fille Cainglet dished out a combined 36-hit performance while Dzi Gervacio and Gretchen Ho stepped up to fire 14 and 11 points, respectively, in a game they could not afford to lose.
Grabbing the spotlight was Den Den Lazaro who bagged the best player of the game award in a rare feat by a libero as she came through with 13 digs that kept the ball in play for Ateneo.
The Lady Eagles were outthit, 59-61, and outblocked, 2-11, but made up for them with a superb all-around game with Jamenea Ferrer and Aerieal Patnongon adding five and three hits, respectively.
Air Force tapped the services of Joy Cases, who saw action for Maynilad, in place of Irish Patrona but the Lady Eagles overcame the challenge, coming out smoking in the fifth to gain the momentum before putting their act together in the clutch to pull off the win in the tournament backed by Accel, Mikasa and Maynilad Water.
Aiza Maizo hit 25 points, Cases had 19 and Jennifer Manzano and Liza Deramos scored 18 and 11 points, respectively, but the Airwomen failed to sustain their rally midway in the decider with Manzano making an attacking error to give Ateneo their 14th point before Cainglet scored on a service ace against Connie Recio to seal the victory.
The Ateneo-Air Force match will be telecast today (Friday) starting at 2 p.m. on NBN-4 and also on GMA-7’s international channels GMA Pinoy TV, GMA LifeTV and GMA News TV, according to the organizing Sports Vision.(pr)