The Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Reinforced Conference Final Four cast features a powerhouse cast with no team holding a distinct advantage over the other, guaranteeing a pair of explosive matches when the semifinal round is fired off tomorrow (Saturday) at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Pocari Sweat has the manpower and momentum but UST will lean on its guts and big fighting heart when they slug it out for the second time in three days while BaliPure and Customs brace for a highly emotional encounter in their side of the best-of-three playoff.
The Lady Warriors toppled the Tigresses in four Wednesday night in their duel for the top seeding at the close of the elims but the former remain wary of their semis rivals, who dropped to No. 4 after finishing tied for second with the Water Defenders and the Transformers.
“The chemistry is there on and off the court so the team is doing well,” said Pocari coach Rommel Abella after steering the Lady Warriors to six straight wins after dropping their opening game assignment to the Air Force Jet Spikers last Oct. 5 to clinch the No. 1 spot.
But the Final Four will be an entirely different thing and Abella has stressed the need for his wards to improve on their blocking and reception.
“We also must become aggressive with our attacking game,” he added.
Import Breanna Mackie has been on attack mode after that loss to Air Force, pumping in a series 20-hit-plus games to emerge the third leading scorer after the elims. Andrea Kacsits has been providing solid backup along with local aces Myla Pablo, Michelle Gumabao, Desiree Dadang, Gyzel Sy and Fil-Am setter Iris Tolenada.
Mackie was also the top blocker after the elims, edging UAAP’s best Marivic Menedes of UST, 16-14, while Melissa Gohing emerged the best digger from among an elite group of receivers who dig deep to pass a spiked or fast-moving ball close to the floor.
But despite the absence of a reinforcement, the Tigresses proved they’re a force to reckon with in the import-laced tournament sponsored by Shakey’s, sweeping their first four games to easily make it to the Final Four.
With her vast repertoire of shots, EJ Laure remains UST’s main weapon along with Meneses, who also thrives on running attacks, veteran Pam Lastimosa and the diminutive Cherry Rondina, whose high-flying acts continue to stun her rivals and thrill the crowd.
The BaliPure-Customs duel is also tipped to go down-to-the-wire with the Water Defenders raring to prove they can go all the way even without their former ace player Alyssa Valdez, who moved over to the Transformers.
But BaliPure skipper Charo Soriano insisted their main concern is to toughen up on defense, fully aware of Valdez’s enormous skills along with Customs’ Thai reinforcements Kanjana Kuthaisong and Natthanicha Jaisaen.
“Our main concern is our defense. We knew we’re doing good but we have to double our efforts especially on defense because the playoffs are different from the elimination round,” said Soriano, whose team also boasts of talented imports in Katherine Morrell, who emerged the top scorer after the elims, and Kaylee Manns and local aces in Dzi Gervacio, Sue Roces, Mae Tajima and Amy Ahomiro and libero Dennise Lazaro.
Meanwhile, the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Third Conference Final Four also promises to be slambang of a semis with Cignal taking on Champion Supra and Air Force battling Instituto Estetico Manila in a pair of best-of-three series.