PLDT banked on its combo plays to hack out a 25-18, 25-17, 26-24 victory over Gerflor to shore up its chances for an all-important clash with Chery Tiggo for the second semifinal slot in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig yesterday.
The duo of Rhea Dimaculangan and Erika Santos powered the High-Speed Hitters’ recovery from five blown match points with Mika Reyes as a decoy with the playmaker setting up a mid-frontcourt play for Santos that broke a 24-all count then feeding a reverse set for the former La Salle hitter in the ensuing attack to scuttle the Defenders for good.
But the High-Speed Hitters will need more than combination plays and endgame savvy to neutralize the Crossovers.
PLDT’s win was its second in three starts and it matched its recent victim’s record for joint second place behind Pool A semifinalist Creamline.
PLDT and Chery Tiggo vie for the coveted slot in the nightcap of another four-game bill closing out the single-round elims stage on Tuesday.
“It’s a normal game, we have played Chery (Tiggo) before. We are looking forward to seeing their new players. The challenge will be on keeping up with their game and be able to read their plays,” said PLDT coach Rald Ricafort.
Chery Tiggo, reinforced by former top UAAP players Eya Laure and Imee Hernandez, Princess Robles, bounced back from a shutout loss to the Cool Smashers with a five-set escape over the Akari Power Chargers and a straight-set win over the Gerflor Defenders.
The High-Speed Hitters overpowered the Defenders in the first two sets despite the absence of two key hitters and looked headed for another romp in the third until the latter, behind the heavy jump-serving rookie Aly Bertolano knocked down points after points and rallied from 19-24 to force the extension.
“We welcome this kind of situation, partly to test their composure,” Ricafort added.
He also credited Fiola Ceballos’ big 13-point showing, saying: “We are proud of Fiola. Jovie Prado was a big loss. Fiola doesn’t only have skills but leadership as well.”
Prado sustained a knee injury in the second set of their 0-3 setback to the Cool Smashers last Thursday and is a doubtful starter on Tuesday while Me-an Mendez opted to take a rest in preparation for their crucial game against the Crossovers.
Dell Palomata finished with 12 points while Michelle Morente and Honey Royse Tubino added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the High-Speed Hitters, who came away with 54 attack points against the Defenders’ 34.
Bertolano top-scored for Gerflor with 12 points in a promising performance for the young former UP Lady Maroon, who, however, failed to draw the needed offensive support from the rest with Carmina Digal and Janine Navarro ending up with seven and five points, respectively.