Cagayan Valley and Army brace for a big comeback by PLDT Home Telpad and Air Force today but are equally motivated to finish off their respective Final Four rivals and seal a clash for the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Open Conference crown at The Arena in San Juan.
The Rising Suns and the Lady Troopers hope to ride on their similar 3-1 victories over the Turbo Boosters and the Air Spikers in the opener of their best-of-three series Thursday and avoid the specter of going through a do-or-die where momentum could shift to the other side.
“Our victory over Air Force (in the quarters) gave us a chance to get into the semis but I told them that our mission does not end there and that they must work doubly hard to achieve our goal,” said Cagayan coach Nes Pamilar, referring to their 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 win over the Air Spikers that snapped their four-game skid in the quarters and netted them the third semis seat.
Pamilar has also cited the vastly-improved game of Rosemarie Vargas, who finally emerged from top hitter Aiza Maizo’s shadows to topscore with 18 hits in the opener of the semis series of the mid-season conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
“Rose has been dishing out big games as do the rest of the team although they still have to play solid together. But I told them that if they wont step up and help Aiza (Maizo), we won’t be able to win games,” said Pamilar.
Maizo, who normed 16 hits in the elims and the quarters, scored 12 points in Game One but Janine Marciano fired 16 hits, Pau Soriano added 11 markers and Wennet Eulalio chipped in nine as the Rising Suns cruised in the last two sets to clinch the 25-11, 16-25, 25-14, 25-20 win.
They hope to score a repeat in their 2 p.m. encounter with the Turbo Boosters, who will be trying to force a rubber match behind Sue Roces, Gretchel Soltones, Lizlee Ann Pantone, Royce Estampa, Laurence Ann Latigas and Angela Benting.
Army is likewise fired up to wrap it all up against Air Force in their 4 p.m. clash with coach Rico de Guzman hoping to draw the best from ace hitter Rachel Ann Daquis, who groped for form in the opener and was pulled out after scoring four hits in two sets.
Games can viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
“She was just tired the last time out and I expect her to bounce back strong,” said de Guzman of Daquis, the team’s top scorer with a 15-hit norm. “But the key will be to be aggressive in attacks and defense on the net.”
With a slew of MVPs and power-hitters in his roster, that won’t pose a problem for De Guzman, who will be pinning his hopes again on the likes Jovelyn Gonzaga, Nerissa Bautista and Mary Jane Balse.
Genie Sabas and Joanne Bunag, who combined for 24 points and provided a big lift in the Lady Troopers’ 24-26, 25-19, 25-20, 25-19 win in Game One, are also expected to raise the level of their respective games along with setter Tina Salak and libero Christine Agno.
But the Air Spikers have proven their ability to rebound when facing off elimination the way they did in sweeping the Ateneo Lady Eagles in their sudden death for the last semis berth. But coach Clarence Esteban must draw the best from Maika Ortiz, Judy Caballejo, Joy Cases, Jocie Tapic, Iari Yongco, May Ann Pantino and Rhea Dimaculangan to neutralize the powerhouse Army side