Game May 31
12:45 p.m. – PLDT vs Army
Alyssa Valdez put on an MVP-like performance as PLDT Home Ultera got back at Army and essayed a 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16 victory to force a deciding Game Three in the Shakey’s V-League Season 12-Open Conference finals before a jampacked crowd at The Arena in San Juan City yesterday.
Moments after receiving her first-ever Shakey’s V-League MVP plum, Valdez went on a spiking spree and finished with a series-high 26 hits to power the Ultra Fast Lady Spikers to the one-hour, 46-minute victory that avenged their 25-13, 23-25, 25-27, 22-25 setback in the series’ opener Thursday and snapped their 10-game run from the elims to the semis of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
That loss, which also spoiled PLDT’s sweep bid, only fired up Valdez and the rest of the Ultra Fast Hitters.
“She deserves the MVP award,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb of his prized spiker, also the spearhead of the country’s campaign in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore next month. “But I told her it would be nicer if she can lead the team to the championship.”
The soft-spoken Valdez knows only too well her responsibility for herself and her team and vowed to deliver the goods next week.
“I’m so thankful and blessed for this award but this would be nothing if we can’t win the title,” said Valdez, who capped her explosive game with four service aces.
The rubber match will be played next Sunday, giving both coaches one week to re-plot their plays and strategies. The winner-take-all is expected to draw a record crowd after 5,398 paying patrons watched yesterday’s contest at the 5,000-seater venue with the organizing Sports Vision failing to accommodate a few hundreds more.
Jaja Santiago, whose mere 6-4 frame can intimidate an attacker in any given play, continued to flash her spiking prowess, ramming in 13 kills, while coming away with five blocks while veteran Charo Soriano also stepped up to fire eight hits.
Gorayeb said they succeeded in containing the power duo of Jovelyn Gonzaga and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, who came through with 16 apiece in Game One but were limited to just 12 and nine, respectively, yesterday.
Mary Jean Balse, a former league MVP, led the way for Army with 17 markers while Rachel Ann Daquis continued to struggle and finished with four hits in this late, crucial stage of the conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
“We knew we needed to find ways to slow down Gonzaga and Dindin (Santiago-Manabat) and we succeeded in doing,” said Gorayeb.
Army coach Rico de Guzman rued some calls that he claimed stymied their rhythm but vowed to come back strong in Game Three.
“There were some calls that took away our momentum,” said de Guzman. “But we couldn’t do anything about it but to just accept it and come out strong in Game Three.”
Army actually came into the match, watched by 5,398 spectators at the 5,000-seater venue, oozing with confidence after snatching the series’ opener and foiling PLDT’s bid for a record title sweep.
But it was the Ultra Fast Lady Spikers who started out strong and came out of a third set setback stronger to send the series into a winner-take-all affair.
After dropping the first two sets, the Lady Troopers regrouped and pounced on the erratic PLDT side to avert a sweep but again struggled in early going of the fourth in the face of the Ultra Fast Hitters’ explosive comeback.
“We really didn’t make much adjustments. I just told them don’t blow this chance and waste away the hard work we had put this conference,” said Gorayeb.
Aside from the MVP plum, the power-hitting Valdez was also named the Best Outside Spiker and led the conference’s other awardees who included Army’s Rachel Ann Daquis (2nd Best Outside Spiker), Meralco’s Jen Reyes (libero), PLDT’s Ruby de Leon (setter), Cagayan’s Ria Meneses (1st best middle blocker), Jaja Santiago (2nd best middle blocker) and Gonzaga (opposite spiker).(pr)