• Hurtt, Freeman lead PLDT past Kia

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    Victoria Hurtt debuted with a 21-hit performance as PLDT Home Ultera subdued a surprisingly tough Kia Forte, 25-12, 25-12, 23-25, 25-21, to clinch the other twice-to-beat edge in the semifinal round of the Shakey’s V-League Season 12-Reinforced Conference elims at The Arena in San Juan City on Saturday.

    Hurtt, one of the two imports PLDT tapped to bolster its campaign in the season-ending conference of the league where it all started, hammered in 20 kills in an impressive show of power skills as the Ultra Fast Hitters recovered from a third-set breakdown to foil Kia Forte’s semis playoff bid and tow University of the Philippines and Navy to the Final Four.

    PLDT thus wound up the single round elims of the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s with a 4-1 card for No. 2 as Army formalized its claim on the top seeding in the Final Four with a 5-0 sweep, capped by a 23-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-23 decision over UP later in the day.

    Honey Royse Tubino unleashed a career-high 28-hit game while Jovelyn Gonzaga added 17 hits, including a vicious spike against Sheena Chopitea at center to wrap up the one-hour, 38-minute victory for Army, which took the first semis bonus in the event presented by PLDT Home Ultera and backed by Mikasa and Accel.

    UP, led by Isabel Molde’s 15 hits and Justine Dorog’s 12 markers, ended up with 2-3 in a tie with Navy but the Lady Maroons nipped the Lady Sailors in the tiebreak for the No. 3 spot.

    Kia wound up with a 1-4 mark, the same output by fellow ousted team Coast Guard.

    The crossover semis will be played next Sunday with Army battling Navy and PLDT going up against UP, according to the organizing Sports Vision. The Lady Troopers and the Ultra Fast Hitters need only to win once to seal a keenly awaited title clash.
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    Freeman, the other PLDT reinforcement from Florida State, added 15 hits as the local aces took a backseat although Janine Marciano still dished out 10 points and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Sue Roces added nine and seven markers, respectively.

    “They’ve practiced with the team for only two days so we expect more from them,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb, bracing for a title duel with the fancied Army side.

    Expecting a rout, the Ultra Fast Hitters found a tougher Kia Forte side in the third, finding themselves trailing by three, the last at 15-18.

    But PLDT took seven of the next nine points to wrest a pair of two-point leads, the last at 23-21, before Kia, behind Shiela Pineda and Alexa Micek, fought back on a Micek drop shot and a Danielle Castaneda ace to force a tie.

    A Gretchel Soltones wild attack gave Kia a 24-23 before ace setter Relea Saet scored on a one-handed tip off a poor PLDT service reception to clinch the set and extend the match.
    Kia kept pressing its bid in the fourth until Hurtt, a 6-2 outside hitter from Iowa State, spearheaded the Ultra Fast Hitters’ strong finishing kick to wrap up the match in one hour and 32 minutes.

    Pined and Micek ended up with 10 hits apiece while Castaneda and Wenneth Eulalio combined for 17 points for the Kia Forte.

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