Pocari Sweat and BaliPure face off for the third straight time tonight in what promises to be a fitting ending to what had been a thrilling series for the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference crown.
Action shifts back to The Arena in San Juan City at 6 p.m. with both teams bracing for another back-and-forth duel that has marked the first two games of the best-of-three series.
The Lady Warriors hacked out a 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24 victory in the series opener last Saturday but the Water Defenders blew hot and cold then hot again when it mattered most to eke out a 25-15, 26-24, 24-26, 24-26, 15-13 decision late Tuesday to force a winner-take-all in the season-opening conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
It will be a question of desire with Pocari Sweat raring to stay perfect in its three finals stints in the league, including victories in the Reinforced and Open Conferences in its maiden season last year and BaliPure out to nail its first championship in the country’s longest-running women’s volley league backed by Mikasa and Asics.
It will also be about poise with the Water Defenders proving steadier in a pressure-packed stretch in Game Two where momentum tilted from one side to the other on a mishit, miscue or converted spike.
“We have that tendency to struggle closing out a set,” said BaliPure coach Roger Gorayeb. “We’re up by two sets in Game Two and we lost the third and fourth. In the fifth, I was at a loss as to what should be done. It was tough.”
But the veteran mentor said he was still proud of his wards for pulling off the win to force a sudden death.
It will also be a duel of imports with Pocari’s Michelle Strizak and Krystal Rivers going up against the equally power-hitting pair of Jang Bualee and Jennifer Keddy of BaliPure.
Only in her second game, Rivers rattled off 26 hits in Game Two after a 20-point performance in her debut, including four of Pocari’s seven-hit binge against BaliPure’s three that gave the defending champions a 9-6 lead in the fifth frame.
But the former US NCAA Division I player from Univ. of Alabama struggled for just one hit the rest of the way and was foiled by Keddy in the stretch that shoved the Water Defenders to a 14-12 lead en route to victory.
But Rivers is expected to step up even more tonight together with Strizak, who holds the league-record of 40 hits in the elims, as they slug it out upfront with Bualee and Keddy, who combined for 40 hits in Game Two, including a solid six kill block effort from Keddy, who also put in four aces.
Focus will also be on the locals with Pocari’s Myla Pablo, Jessey de Leon, Jeanette Panaga, Cai Nepomuceno and Desiree Dadang hoping to hold their own against BaliPure’s Soltones, Risa Sato, Jerrili Malabanan, Aiko Urdas and Macy Mendiola.
Jasmine Nabor of BaliPure rebounded from a so-so Game One performance with a 49-excellent set effort in Game Two, eight more than her Pocari counterpart Gyzelle Sy, with the two aces also bracing for a duel of their playmaking prowess along with their respective liberos Melissa Gohing (Pocari) and Ann Pantone (BaliPure).