Lady Troopers waylay Stags, near crown

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

Philippine Army smothered San Sebastian with its power game and superb blocking as it romped with a surprisingly easy 25-9, 25-20, 25-16 victory to take Game One of the Shakey‘s V-League Open Conference finals before a big Sunday crowd at The Arena in San Juan, Sunday night.
With its vaunted offensive game in full throttle, the Lady Troopers neutralized the Lady Stags’ attack with a solid net defense, coming through with 10 blocks, nine in the first two sets that took the sting out of the 2008 second conference champions.
Rachel Ann Daquis fired 14 hits, Davao del Norte native Mary Jean Balse made 13 points and Michelle Carolino backed them up with 11 kills for a 12-point output while Marietta Carolino and Cristina Salak added nine hits apiece for the Troopers, who stamped their class right in the opening set to turn what had been hyped as a tight contest into a one-sided triumph.
They go for the clincher – and the first “Open” crown in the league sponsored by Shakey’s V-League – on Thursday.
“The girls did just what they’ve been doing in practice,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman. “They’ve been playing on a high level and they really wanted to take Game One.”
The Troopers didn’t only take the opener of the best-of-three serie. They dominated it.
They produced 36 kills, had 10 blocks, and scored 10 whopping points off the serve, including one by Salak that closed out the 63-minute encounter.
Army’s defense simply put SSC’s offense out-of-sync with American import Lauren Ford held to just five points after bagging the MVP plum and the best scorer honors in the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
With Ford struggling, Thai reinforcement took over with 13 points but the rest struggled in the face of the Troopers splendid all-around game.
Other individual winners in the league backed by Accel, Mikasa and Maynilad Water, were Army’s Mayette Carolino (best attacker), Navy’s Suzanne Roces (best blocker), SSC’s Rubie de Leon (best server), Ateneo’s Denise Lazaro (best digger), Ateneo’s Jamenea Ferrer (best setter) and Army’s Jennelyn Reyes (best receiver).
Earlier, Fille Cainglet stepped up to fire 30 points as Ateneo outsteadied Navy in the decider to pull off a 25-22, 23-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-8 victory to gain the headstart in their battle for third.
Meanwhile, the Ateneo-Navy match will be telecast at 2 p.m. today (Monday) on NBN-4 and GMA-7’s international channels GMA Pinoy TV, GMA LifeTV and GMA News TV, according to the organized Sports Vision. The Army-SSC match will be shown tomorrow (Tuesday).
Cainglet rammed in a 28 kills, the last a blast to the side of the Lady Sailors] defenders that ended the tough one-hour, 52-minute encounter and gave the Lady Eagles a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three playoff.
The talented Ateneo hitter also finished with 17 digs and accounted for eight of her team’s 34 receptions to likewise clinch the best player of the game honors.
Alyssa Valdez added 13 attacks for a 14-point output and Dzi Gervacio made a good account of herself with 12 points, including two blocks.
The Eagles, winners of the first conference crown of the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza, go for the clincher Thursday.
Aiza Maizo scored 24 hits while Cecile Cruzada and Suzanne Roces shot 18 and 15 points, respectively, for Navy.
Dragged to a fifth-setter by the Sailors, the Eagles broke away from a tight game (4-4), (8-7) by taking six of the next seven points for a 14-8 lead before Cainglet sealed the win with a kill.
Meanwhile, San Sebastian’s American import Lauren Ford copped the MVP honors during awards rites before the opener of the SSC-Army duel for the championship. Ford also won the best scorer plum.(pr)

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