PLDT Home Ultera took the best dished out by last year’s best and proved this time its better, battling back from a set down and hacking out a tough 25-21, 24-26, 20-25, 26-24, 15-12 victory to assure itself of a crack at one of the finals berths in the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference before a big Sunday crowd at The Arena in San Juan City.
National team mainstay Alyssa Valdez put in another solid outing, rallying the Ultra Fast Hitters late in the fourth and then spearheading the team’s early attack in the decider before Grethcel Soltones, another national team mainstay, took over to deliver the match-clinching attack that grazed the arms of Dindin Manabat that ended a grueling, back-and-forth 2:13 encounter.
The victory was PLDT’s second straight in the Final Four after beating Cagayan Valley in three in the opener and ninth overall counting its sweep of the single round elims of the season-opening conference of the league.
They go for a sweep of the semis against Cagayan Valley on Tuesday.
Valdez, fighting off colds and the tough Army net defense, unloaded nine hits in the fifth set, including three straight to open the decider and attacks off the block and from the second row off superb sets by Rubie de Leon.
“She’s not feeling good the past couple of weeks,” said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb of Valdez, who led the Philippines to a seventh place finish in the Asian Under-23 Championship at the Philsports Arena last week Valdez wound up with 35 hits, including a whopping 33 kills, while Jaja Santiago, a noted shot blocker, went on attack mode and fired 20 hits while skipper Sue Roces and Soltones chipped in 10 markers each.
Jovelyn Gonzaga unleashed a 14-hit game while Manabat, Mary Jean Balse and Honey Royse Tubino each scored 13 hits for the defending champions, who came away with eight blocks in the highly spirited duel of the league’s powerhouse teams in a match beamed live over GMA News TV Channel 11.