Laoag, UP dispute last V-League Final Four berth

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BaliPure’s Alyssa Valdez (right) hammers in a kill against Pocari Sweat’s Michele Gumabao (No. 7) and Lutgarda Malaluan during their Shakey’s V-League showdown before a huge crowd at the Philsports Arena on Saturday.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

BaliPure’s Alyssa Valdez (right) hammers in a kill against Pocari Sweat’s Michele Gumabao (No. 7) and Lutgarda Malaluan during their Shakey’s V-League showdown before a huge crowd at the Philsports Arena on Saturday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

University of the Philippines and Team Laoag clash today in what promises to be a fierce, intense duel for the fourth and last semifinal berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

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The Lady Maroons gained a crack at the Final Four by ousting the fancied National University Lady Bulldogs, 25-22, 25-27, 25-13, 25-22, on Saturday, tying the Power Smashers at fourth with 3-3 slates heading to today’s final elimination playdate.

Laoag swept Baguio in its last outing last June 18 with the Power Smashers coming into the 4 p.m. match well-rested and motivated for a possible Final Four stint right on its maiden season in the league where it all started.

Mylene Paat and Jessica Galanza, along with Jovielyn Prado, Katherine Villegas and Wenneth Eulalio hope to come out strong coming off a long break as they slug it out with the young, but gutsy UP side raring to prove its worth.

Laoag actually showed its true potential when it upended powerhouse Air Force in three on June 11, capped by its tough stand in the last two sets, but UP is riding the crest of back-to-back victories, including against NU in a knockout match over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Pocari Sweat tries to complete its sweep of the eliminations as it tangles with fellow semifinalist Air Force at 6:30 p.m. for the top seeding in the Final Four where the No. 1 plays the No. 4 and No. 2 clashes with No. 3 in a pair of best-of-three series.

The Lady Warriors moved within a win from sweeping the qualifiers by rallying from two sets down to beat arch rival BaliPure Water Defenders, 21-25, 6-25, 26-24, 27-25, 19-17, on Saturday in a match that drew a big crowd at the Philsports Arena.

Myla Pablo scored on an off-the-block hit as the Lady Warriors finally clinched the stirring come-from-behind victory after blowing a six-point lead in the decider, 4-10, and five match points.

It was a big turnaround for Pocari Sweat, which appeared headed for a blowout after losing the first two sets, including a listless stint in the second frame. But they came alive in the next two, pulling off a pair of extended matches then survived the Water Defenders’ spirited rally in the fifth to hack out the highly-emotional win.

Pablo, who with Michele Gumabao missed the team’s last two games, marked her return with a scintillating superb all-around performance and finished with 24 points, including five in the decider while putting to naught Alyssa Valdez’s 32-hit outing.

Elaine Kasilag backed her up with a solid 20-hit output while Gumabao added nine markers for Pocari, which dealt BaliPure its second loss against five victories.

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