PLDT Home Ultera coach Roger Gorayeb knows they would need more than Alyssa Valdez to beat a well balanced, more experienced Army side in a sudden death.
He was right.
Drawing key contributions from Jaja Santiago, Gretchel Soltones, Sue Roces and a gritty bench, the Ultra Fast Hitters overcame the tough Lady Troopers, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 28-26, 15-13, on Sunday to crown themselves the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference champions before a jampacked crowd at The Arena in San Juan City on Sunday.
Slowed down by Army’s rock-solid two-man, three-man net defense, Valdez persevered and still led all hitters with 29 hits, including 25 on kills, while Santiago and Soltones unloaded 17 points apiece, including key hits in a nerve-wracking decider.
With the match tied at 13, Roces delivered on a quick set then Santiago scored on a two-hand tap following a key block on Army’s Carmina Aganon, triggering a wild PLDT celebration on center court as the orange and white balloons and confetti fell from the rafters.
“Before the fifth set, I told the girls I’m already proud of what they’ve done,” said Gorayeb. “I also told them this conference is for us and this fifth set is really for them.”
It actually didn’t look that way as Army put its superb block in full display by foiling Valdez’s attacks twice and pouncing on PLDT’s ace’s error to race to a 3-0 start in the decider.
But Valdez kept on firing and Santiago and Soltones kept on coming up with clutch hits as the Ultra Fast Hitters turned things around, snatching leads at 5-4, 8-7, 10-9, before taking two-point cushions at 12-10 and 13-11.
But the Lady Troopers refused to fold up and took the next two points on a Dindin Manabat hit and a Valdez mishit before former two-time MVP Roces and Santiago banged in the last two hits for PLDT’s first-ever championship in the league where it all started.