• Lady Warriors sink Water Defenders in four, retain crown

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    Pocari Sweat exploited its edge in power and experience and pounced on BaliPure’s errors to pound out a convincing 20-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-19 victory last night and retain the Reinforced Conference crown of the Premier Volleyball League at The Arena in San Juan City.

    The Lady Warriors needed one set to figure things out, putting their act together in the next three frames which they dominated behind Krystal Rivers and Michelle Strizak’s power game and Finals MVP Myla Pablo, Desiree Dadang, Risa Saso’s spunk to complete a 2-1 victory in their best-of-three series for the crown in the season-opening conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.

    The Lady Warriors imposed their will from the second to fourth, seizing control early then thwarting every BaliPure fightback with big hits from Rivers, Strizak and the locals.

    They led 23-14 in the fourth before the Water Defenders strung up three straight hits and moved within six but Strizak scored on a hit then Jessey de Leon soared to wrap up the set, the match and the championship for the Lady Warriors.

    As the white confetti rained down both sides of the court, the Lady Warriors whooped it up, celebrating their third straight championship in as many stints in the league to underscore their claim as the new power in women’s volleyball.

    Only in her third game with Pocari, Rivers turned in another monster performance befitting a player of her caliber, firing away kills upfront or at the back row while providing solid backup on the net.

    But the win didn’t come easy. Pocari struggled in the double round elims and wound up third then survived the round robin quarters minus other import Edina Selimovic before surviving another best-of-three series with the Power Smashers that also went the distance.

    The Lady Warriors held off the Water Defenders in the series opener, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24, but dropped a 15-25, 24-26, 26-24, 26-24, 13-15 loss in the next that set up the sudden death.

    Jang Bualee, chasing only her second crown in a decade-long stint here, combined with Risa Sato to finish off the Lady Warriors in the opening frame with the former coming through with three straight hits to make it 23-19 before Sato scored on a quick swipe to close out the set after Pocari negated a hit with a net violation.

    But the Lady Warriors bounced back strong in second set, taking control early with Rivers leading their fightback that saw the team collect 16 attack points, five more than their rivals, including a Strizak hit to the face of Jennifer Keddy that made it 15-12.

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