• Lady Troopers gun for sweep, V-L crown

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    Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Tina Salak underscore Army’s tough net defense as they foil PLDT’s Gretchel Soltones’ attack in the opener of the Shakey’s VLeague Season 12 Open Conference finals at The Arena in San Juan on Thursday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Tina Salak underscore Army’s tough net defense as they foil PLDT’s Gretchel Soltones’ attack in the opener of the Shakey’s VLeague Season 12 Open Conference finals at The Arena in San Juan on Thursday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Expect Army to unload all its ammunition as it guns for another sweep of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference crown against a PLDT Home Ultera side raring to wage a fightback in Game Two at The Arena in San Juan today.

    Coach Rico de Guzman isn’t likely to tinker with the roster that defanged the erstwhile lethal Ultra Fast Hitters and keyed their Game One triumph Thursday, knowing fully well that a single misstep could tilt the momentum to the other side in a war of attrition between the league’s best teams with equal strengths.

    “We expect them to make some adjustment on their attack and defense but we’ll still focus on stopping Alyssa (Valdez),” said de Guzman, after steering the Lady Troopers to a come-from-behind 13-25, 25-23, 27-25, 25-22 win last Thursday. “But we’re also ready if they use her as a decoy since PLDT has other good, dependable players.”

    With Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Jovelyn Gonzaga coming through with three swats each aside from leading the team’s attack with 13 kills, Army produced eight blocks as against PLDT’s six.

    Army also came away with 26 digs as against PLDT’s 23 with Gonzaga coming through with seven in a superb all-around game by the talented Iloilo hitter who also ran away with last year’s Finals MVP honors after Army swept Cagayan Valley in two without dropping a set.

    But it was the Lady Troopers’ poise which came into fore in the series’ opener as they came back strong from a first-set blowout with veteran Nerissa Bautista stepping up and chipping in nine key hits, Mary Jean Balse adding seven markers and ace setter Tina Salak coming up with 32 excellent sets.

    Still, expect the Ultra Fast Hitters to hit back and send the series into a winner-take-all affair next Sunday with Valdez and the rest all primed up for a big comeback coming off a two-day rest in the season-opening conference sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.

    The keenly awaited clash is set at 12:45 p.m. to be telecast live on GMA News TV Channel 11, according to the organizing Sports Vision. Game Three, if necessary, will be played May 31.

    PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb has vowed no less than a fightback, so expect Valdez to outdo herself and better her 25-hit performance the last time out. But the Ateneo hotshot and veteran of the Asian U-23 Championship will need a solid backup from fellow national team mainstays Jaja Santiago and Gretchel Soltones and former MVP Sue Roces and ace playmaker Rubie de Leon to re-assert their mastery over the Lady Troopers whom they toppled in the elims and the semis of the conference backed by Mikasa and Accel.

    “We really want to end it tomorrow (today). It will be tougher if the series reaches Game Three since they’ll be able to seize momentum and gain more confidence. So if we can finish them off, we’ll do,” said de Guzman.

    Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley also seeks to finish off Meralco in their own best-of-three series for third after the Lady Rising Suns scored a 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 decision over the Power Spikers also on Thursday.

    Games can also be viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph.

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