Air Force pounced on the absence of BaliPure’s two ace hitters and fashioned out a 25-23, 14-25, 25-19, 25-16 victory on Monday to force an early three-way tie for the lead in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan.
The comebacking Jet Spikers, losing former stalwarts Rhea Dimaculangan and Maika Ortiz, showed up with a gem of a recruit in Dell Palomata, who unleashed a 16-hit game in her first foray in big-time volley to spearhead the Air Force’s charge against the depleted Water Defenders.
The lanky Palomata fired away 10 attack points and blasted in five aces while drawing solid backup from the team’s mainstays, including Judy Ann Caballero, who also scored 10 kills for a 13-hit output and May Ann Pantino and Jocemer Tapic, who finished with 10 points apiece.
“I was just motivated to play good by my teammates and coaches,” said the soft-spoken Palomata, who only used to hog the spotlight as a former La Salle-Bacolod spiker.
The win thus put Air Force in step with opening day winners Pocari Sweat and National U, which beat Team Laoag and University of the Philippines, respectively, in the opener of the season-opening conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
Except for a sloppy second set stint, it was an all-Air Force show during the one-hour, 32-minute encounter aired lived over ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23 with the Jet Spikers unleashing their full might in the fourth that saw them post leads of 18-11 and 22-15.
One of the pre-tournament favorites, the Water Defenders rebounded from an opening set setback with an impressive win in the second but simply lacked firepower in the absence of Alyssa Valdez and Gretchel Soltones, who were in London to honor a previous commitment.
Amy Ahomiro turned in a 13-hit game while Ella De Jesus and Dzi Gervacio added 12 points apiece in a reunion of sorts for the former Ateneo Lady Eagles stars. But they sorely missed the services of Valdez and Soltones, particularly when the Jet Spikers stepped up their attack in the third and fourth sets.
“They were a bit overwhelmed by their victory in the first set and lost their focus in the second, particularly in reception. But they were able to recover in the next two,” said Jasper Jimenez, the man at helm of Air Force, which took a leave in the league where it all started for a couple of years but stayed in shape by competing in various commercial leagues.
4 p.m. – Iriga vs Baguio
6:30 p.m. – Pocari vs NU