2 p.m. – Cagayan vs Meralco (best-of-three for third)
4 p.m. – PLDT vs Army (best-of-three for title)
Jovelyn Gonzaga dished out a superb all-around performance as Army wore down Cagayan Valley, 25-23, 26-24, 25-17, yesterday to arrange a showdown with powerhouse PLDT Home Ultera for the Shakey’s V-League Season 12-Open Conference crown at The Arena in San Juan City.
Gonzaga rammed in 10 kills and came away with six blocks to finish with 16 hits with last year’s MVP capping her game-long brilliance with nine digs to power the Lady Troopers to the one-hour and 22-minute romp and on track of their title-retention bid in the season-opening conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
Dragged into another five-setter, this time by ousted Meralco, PLDT Home Ultera leaned on its key players to eke out a 22-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 18-16 victory and preserve its unbeaten run heading to the best-of-three finals.
Alyssa Valdez came off the bench to fire 23 hits, including 21 on attacks, while top blocker Jaja Santiago went on attack mode again and banged away 19 points as the Ultra Fast Hitters fended off the Power Spikers’ upset bid to stretch its streak to 10.
Aby Maraño and Maica Morada combined to help power Meralco to victories in the first and third sets but Valdez and company proved steadier in the decider to snatch the win.
Earlier, Honey Royse Tubino also stepped up to fire 14 hits, including 10 attacks, two blocks and two aces, while Mary Jean Balse and Dindin Manabat backing them with 11 and 10 points, respectively, and ace spiker Rachel Ann Daquis adding eight hits.
“She’s been one of our key players and we wouldn’t have reached this far without her,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman, referring to the fiery Iloilo southpaw.
But Gonzaga – and the rest of the Lady Troopers – will have to double their effort when they face the Ultra Fast Hitters in the opener of their best-of-three title duel tomorrow.
PLDT thus finished the single round semis with a 3-0 card while Army ended up with a 2-1 mark and Cagayan and Meralco finished with 1-2 and 0-3, respectively.
Army thus finished the single round semis with a 2-1 mark while Cagayan closed out with a 1-2 mark and dropped to the battle for third with Meralco.
The Lady Troopers missed clinching an outright finals slot when they blew a 2-1 lead and yielded a heartbreaking 21-25, 26-24, 25-20, 24-26, 12-15 defeat to Alyssa Valdez and PLDT, which kept its win run going and took the first championship seat last Sunday.
The Lady Troopers, however, made sure to notch it this time.
“We just focused on winning this one and not think about our missed chances in our last game,” said de Guzman.
This will be Army’s fifth finals appearance in the Open Conference of the league presented by PLDT Home Ultera and backed by Mikasa and Accel, winning it twice four years ago and last year.
Army’s tough net defense likewise held Cagayan’s top scorer Aiza Maizo-Pontillas to just eight hits with Rosemarie Vargas finishing with a topscoring 11 hits and Marivic Meneses, setter Relea Saet, Pau Soriano and Janine Marciano combining for just 19 hits for the Lady Rising Suns, who sorely missed the power and leadership of injured skipper Angeli Tabaquero.
Army actually struggled to ward off Cagayan in the first two sets, needing to toughen up on reception, but cruised to a straight-set romp as the Lady Rising Suns lost steam in the third.
Meanwhile, the Army-Cagayan match will be shown at 1 p.m. today on GMA News TV Channel 11 with the PLDT-Meralco tiff to be aired tomorrow, according to the organizing Sports Vision.(pr)