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Kurashiki guns for final berth

SKIPPER Kyoka Oshima and the rest of the Kurashiki Ablaze will return next year. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PVL


                          W      L

*Creamline        4       0

Kurashiki (JPN) 3      0

PLDT                 2      2

F2 Logistics       1      3

Cignal                1      3

Bắc Ninh (VIE) 0      3


Games Thursday

4 p.m. – PLDT vs Kurashiki (Japan)

6:30 p.m. – Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh (Vietnam) vs Cignal

Kurashiki of Japan will bid to wrap things up today and avoid further complications when it faces PLDT for the last final slot in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

Even if it loses today, the Japanese club nicknamed Ablaze can still end up arranging a title clash with Creamline but would rather get the job done the soonest.

The Ablaze said they are wary of the PLDT High Speed Hitters – and the local fans – as they go for a fourth straight victory that would propel them to Sunday showdown with the Cool Smashers.

Gametime is at 4 p.m. today with PLDT, coming off back-to-back 3-0 victories over F2 Logistics and Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh of Vietnam for a 2-2 card, likewise pulling out all the stops to stall the Japanese and keep its flickering hopes alive.

But even if they do hurdle the Japanese, the High Speed Hitters would still need to hope the former would drop their last semis match to the Cool Smashers at the close of the semis phase tomorrow.

Like F2 Logistics, PLDT is a tall team. But we will do our best, particularly in receiving,” said Kurashiki coach Hideo Suzuki, after steering the team past the Cargo Movers, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20, last Tuesday for a 3-0 slate, through an interpreter.

Creamline booked the first finals seat with a tough 25-23, 25-23, 25-17 win over Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh, which remained winless in three games in the mid-season conference of the league.

Having seen the High Speed Hitters play, Akane Hiraoka, who took the game’s top honors with a nine-point effort against F2 Logistics, said: “PLDT has tall players, we have to focus on defense and receive and we shouldn’t be discouraged.”

PLDT coach Rald Ricafort and the High Speed Hitters, on the other hand, said they aren’t actually after the result but the chance to play an efficient team like Kurashiki.

We’re happy to have built momentum (after beating Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh). We prepared against the Japanese,” said Ricafort.

But it’s more of a challenge to play a Japanese team. It (making the final) is no longer in our hands, so we’ll focus on the opportunity to play a strong, quick team like Kurashiki and gain experience,” he added.

We’re all excited to play a disciplined Japanese squad. We will get the chance to see our level of play. It’s more than the result and we know the coaching staff will be there to guide us,” said top libero Kath Arado.

Fiola Ceballos, who has become one of PLDT’s go-to hitters in the conference, has emphasized the need for patience and composure, saying: “They are fast in striking and quck on defense as well so we have t be patient.”

Meanwhile, Cignal, toting a 1-3 slate, and Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh, winless in three games, tangle in the 6:30 p.m. main game with both teams trying to stay in the battle for the bronze.

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