Too many questions have lingered during the long, long break leading to today’s awaited rubber match for women’s volley supremacy between two teams of equal strength and class.
And defending champion Army and crowd favorite PLDT Home Ultera hope to provide the answers in every serve, every set, every spike and every block that they will dish out in what promises to be a duel to remember.
This is the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference sudden death – a no-tomorrow match that has generated so much interest not just because of the personnel involved but also because of the protagonists’ brand of play that has caught the fancy of the discerning sporting public.
PLDT was on its way to capping what had appeared to be an unbeaten title campaign until it stumbled to a 13-25, 25-23, 27-25, 25-22 defeat at the hands of a fired-up Army side in the opener of their best-of-three series last May 21.
The Lady Troopers used their championship experience and leaned on their bench depth to stop the Ultra Fast Hitters with the well-rested duo of Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Jovelyn Gonzaga keying Army’s stirring come-from-behind win.
Stung but unbowed, the Ultra Fast Hitters struck back behind Alyssa Valdez’s MVP-like performance, scoring a vengeful 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16 victory last Sunday to send the series to a winner-take-all affair.
The match, set at 12:45 p.m. at The Arena, will be aired live on GMA News TV Channel 11 and via streaming on www.v-league.ph, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
“I told my players to give it their best shot since all our hard work would only be put to waste if we fail to win this championship,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb.
The veteran mentor also stressed the need for his wards to minimize their mistakes and handle every shot, every receive, every dig with utmost care and resolve.
“This is now a battle of nerves, no room for mistakes,” said Gorayeb.
Playing in a pressure-packed game like in this sudden death could work to Army’s advantage what with its vast championship experience, winning two of the four Open crowns in the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
But coach Rico de Guzman will be more concerned on how to stop Valdez although he has designed plays if and whenever PLDT will use their top spiker as a decoy in a bid to startle Army’s defensive ploys.
“We also expect them to make some adjustments on their attacks and defense. We’ll still focus on Alyssa but we’re ready if they use her as a decoy since they have so many players who can step up in attacks,” said de Guzman.
The match, expected to draw record crowds, also features members of the national team with the game also serving as their final tune-up for the first-ever women’s campaign in a decade in the SEA Games in Singapore next week.
But for sure, Valdez, Jaja Santiago, Gretchel Soltones and Denden Lazaro of PLDT and Army’s Manabat, Rachel Ann Daquis and national team skipper Gonzaga will set aside their national team drive for this one particular, personal battle for local volley supremacy.