Ginie Sabas and Joanne Bunag combined for 24 hits as Army recovered from a scrambling opening set setback to ground Air Force, 24-26, 25-19, 25-20, 25-19, and move closer to the finals of the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan yesterday.
With top hitter Rachel Ann Daquis pulled out after struggling with just four hits in the first two sets, Sabas and Bunag took over and delivered the goods, finishing with 14 and 10 markers, respectively, in a solid back-up to the three other Lady Troopers stars—Jovelyn Gonzaga, Mary Jane Balse and Nerissa Bautista.
The troika produced the games expected of them with Gonzaga topscoring with 18 hits and Balse and Bautista adding 13 and 11 points, respectively. Gonzaga and Balse also stood out in defense, combining for five of the team’s 10 blocks that virtually negated Air Force’s 66 excellent sets as against Army’s 58.
But it was Sabas, a prized find from Cebu, and former FEU stalwart Bunag’s superb all-around games that helped carry the Troopers past the Air Spikers, who pounced on Daquis’ sloppy play and surprised the Season 8 champions with a gutsy stand in an extended first set clash.
But Army quickly went to its power game in the next frame, sustained its form in the third before finishing off Air Force with a 23-minute romp in the fourth for a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series.
Sabas and Bunag connived in that big fourth-set Army charge that saw the Lady Troopers shatter the 16-all count and take nine of the last 12 points.
“She looked tired so I just rested her,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman of an off-form Daquis, the team’s leading scorer with a 14-point norm. “I’m just happy that not just one but two from the bench stepped up.”
Another victory on Sunday will send Army to the finals of the conference sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa and Accel where it will face the winner in the other semis clash pitting second seed newcomer PLDT Home Telpad and defending champion Cagayan.
The Army-Air Force match will be shown on GMA News TV Channel starting at 1 p.m. today with the PLDT-Cagayan duel to be telecast tomorrow, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
Daquis appeared tired and spent after the first two sets, forcing de Guzman to rest her with Bunag coming to help Sabas cover up for Daquis with the duo responding to help secure the win.
Judy Caballejo fired 16 hits while May Ann Pantino and Maika Ortiz combined for 26 hits for the Air Spikers, who swept the Ateneo Lady Eagles, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22, in their knockout duel for the last semis seat last Tuesday.