MANILA, Philippines - Army cashed in on Air Force’s shaky windup in the fourth and hacked out a tough 25-20, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 decision to wrest the solo lead in the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Open Conference eliminations at The Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Troopers pounced on the Raiders’ two costly net violations to rally from 18-21 down in the fourth, racking up seven of the last nine hits and pounding out the one-hour, 51-minute win that put the Season 8 champions ahead of the pack with a 2-0 card.
MJ Balse came away with two service aces, including one that hit the tip of the net and dropped into an unguarded Air Force spot while Ginie Sabas scored on a block and punched in a down-the-line hit before Rachel Ann Daquis capped the Lady Troopers strong finish with a block off Maika Ortiz.
Later in the day, powerhouse newcomer PLDT Home Telpad put away an erratic Ateneo side as it fashioned out a 25-21, 25-13, 26-24 victory to join Army in the lead in the early going of the mid-season conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
Former MVP Suzanne Roces struck for 12 hits, including the match-clinching attack that wrapped up the one-hour, 17-minute duel of two of the league’s fancied teams, while Charo Soriano scored eight points against her former team.
Alyssa Valdez unloaded 14 kills and finished with 18 hits but failed to draw solid support from the rest with Miren Gequillana’s five points proving to be the team’s next best output.
The Power Attackers, who played with top hitter Dindin Santiago for the second straight game after also scoring a sweep over the UP Lady Maroons last Thursday, scored 33 points off the Lady Eagles’ errors but struggled a bit late in the third, enabling the reigning UAAP champions to extend the match a little longer.
The Raiders, who fought back from 3-8 start in the fourth to take command at 20-17, looked headed to sending the match into the deciding fifth when Jen Manzano neutralized a Jovelyn Gonzaga attack with her own kill to keep Air Force ahead by three at 21-18.
But the Raiders committed back-to-back net violations, enabling the Lady Troopers to bounce back behind Balse and Sabas. Air Force actually failed to score from there, their last two points courtesy of a Balse service error and wide spike by Gonzaga.
Balse, a former league MVP, and Daquis each scored 20 hits and Gonzaga added 12 markers but the Lady Troopers barely edged the Raiders in attacks, 49-47, as Ortiz fired 14 hits and Judy Caballejo and Iari Yongco tossed in 12 points apiece.