Air Force aims to sustain its strong elimination round showing as it tangles with nemesis Laoag even as Pocari Sweat and BaliPure renew their brewing rivalry in today’s start of the best-of-three semifinals of the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Jet Spikers spoiled what could have been a possible blockbuster finale as they turned back the erstwhile unbeaten Pocari Lady Warriors, 20-25, 25-17 25-22, 25-15, on Monday to clinch the top seeding in the Final Four and relegate their victims to No. 2 and a semifinal clash with the No. 3 BaliPure Water Defenders.
Air Force, on the other hand, takes on Laoag, which repulsed University of the Philippines, 25-21, 19-25, 25-22, 26-24, also on Monday for the last Final Four seat in the season-opening conference.
Game time is at 6:30 p.m. after the 4 p.m. match between Air Force and Laoag.
Laoag actually swept Air Force in the elimination round but the Jet Spikers remain the slight favorite owing to their experience and personnel.
“We’re going to use that as motivation when we play them in the semis,” said Air Force coach Jasper Jimenez, referring to their 14-25, 23-25, 23-25 loss to Laoag on June 11.
The Pocari-BaliPure showdown, on the other hand, remains a toss-up with odds just about even between the two most popular teams in the league where it all started.
The Lady Warriors hope to score a repeat of their classic come-from-behind victory over the Water Defenders last Saturday that drew a season-best 3,000-plus paying patrons at the Philsports Arena. But the latter are going all-out for revenge and redemption, guaranteeing another emotional, intense-filled clash between the two talent-laden, top spiking teams.
Air Force has bucked the absence of 6’3 Dell Palomata, who has opted to go back to Bacolod and resume her studies, with Jocemer Tapic and Joy Cases stepping up their respective games along with veteran Judy Ann Caballejo, May Ann Pantino and Mae Antipuesto, setter Wendy Semana and libero Mary Ann Balmaceda.
Against Laoag, the Jet Spikers will be facing a vastly-improved crew headed by Jovielyn Prado, Mylene Paat, Jessica Galanza, Katherine Villegas, Wenneth Eulalio and setter and league’s leading server Relea Saet and libero Charlene Gillego.
Still, focus will be on the Pocari-BaliPure clash with Myla Pablo, Elaine Kasilag and Michelle Gumabao going up against Alyssa Valdez, Amy Ahomiro and Dzi Gervacio in what promises to be a clash of power and blocking prowess.
Meanwhile, Cignal steps up its drive for a sweep of the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Open Conference crown as it tangles with No. 4 Sta. Elena at the start of the own best-of-three semis series at 10 a.m.
Second seed Air Force, on the other hand, battles Instituto Estetico Manila in the other Final Four duel at 1 p.m.