Pocari Sweat cranked up its offense in the fourth then withstood Air Force’s fightback in the decider to pound out a come-from-behind 21-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-14, 15-10 victory at the start of the quarterfinal round of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference on Saturday.
Michelle Strizak took over midway in the fourth and went on to fire 24 hits while Myla Pablo, back in harness after missing the team’s last two games due to back injury, sizzled with 28 points as the defending champions gained the head-start in the short quarters phase among four teams disputing the last two semis berths in the season-opening conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
Jeanette Panaga also came through with clutch hits in the fifth, including a wily knock to the unguarded spot at the back of the Jet Spikers’ court that made it 7-3 and a drop shot to end a long rally and keep Pocari ahead by four at 11-7.
Air Force still tried to fight back at 9-12 but Strizak, who unloaded a tournament-best 40 hits in their losing stand the last time out, scored on back-to-back hits and after Thai Patcharee Saengmuang scored on a kill, Maricar Nepomuceno finished off the Jet Spikers with a spike that the latter had failed to return.
“I was a little bit wary at the start but my team needed me so I just gave it my best,” said Pablo, who banged in 25 kills and made three block shots to help power the Lady Warriors to the hard-earned victory.
But for a while, the Lady Warriors appeared headed for a third straight setback as the Jet Spikers, who snapped a seven-game skid with a 25-19, 24-26, 25-27, 25-21, 15-6 win over the former at the close of the double-round elims last Thursday, imposed their will and strength in two of the first three sets which they took.
They actually controlled the second frame too, leading at 22-20, but Pablo stepped up and fired three of Pocari’s next five points to help Pocari, behind Gyzelle Sy’s playmaking savvy, square off the match at one-set apiece.
The Jet Spikers, however, dominated the third behind Saengmuang, Iari Yongco, Jocemer Tapic and ace setter Wendy Semana, only to struggle in the face of the Lady Warriors’ strong fourth set charge.
Earlier, Sta. Lucia swept Army, 25-17, 25-19, 25-21, to join Cignal HD and Air Force in the semifinal round in the men’s side of the league backed by Mikasa and Asics.
Berlin Paglinawan fired 13 hits, Ace Mandani added 11 markers and Israel Encina and Kurl Rosete chipped in 10 points apiece for the Wrecking Balls, who tied the HD Spikers at 3-1 behind frontrunning Air Force (4-1).
The loss dropped Army to 2-3 in a tie with Instituto Estetico Manila for fourth to force a playoff for the last Final Four seat.
2 p.m. – Cignal vs Sta. Elena (men’s)
4 p.m. – Creamline vs Pocari Sweat (women’s)
6:30 p.m. – Air Force vs Perlas (women’s)