MANILA, Philippines - Cagayan Valley kicks off its tough five-game quarterfinal campaign today, facing off Army in a duel of title contenders even as Air Force tries to enhance its bid for No. 1 against a resurgent Ateneo side in the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan.
With erstwhile co-leaders PLDT Home Telpad (7-2) and Army (6-2) dropping one game each in the quarters, Cagayan found itself alone at the top with a 6-1 slate with another victory over the Lady Troopers in their 2 p.m. encounter set to give the Rising Suns a half-game cushion over the Turbo Boosters in their spirited battle for the top spot.
Cagayan, set to play five straight games in the single round quarters, enjoys a psychological edge over Army after the Rising Suns snapped the Lady Troopers’ five-game run in the elims with a 3-1 victory last July 24. The defending champions also hope to pounce on the Lady Troopers dip in form following their 1-3 setback to the Air Force Raiders last Tuesday.
Injured Rachel Ann Daquis, Army’s top hitter, remains a doubtful starter for the Season 8 champions, leaving the load to Jovelyn Gonzaga, Mary Jane Balse and Nene Bautista, all former MVPs of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
But the Rising Suns also boast of a slew of spikers ready to pound Army’s defense, including Aiza Maizo, Angeli Tabaquero, Pau Soriano, Rose Vargas, Joy Benito and Wenneth Eulalio, guaranteeing a slam-bang duel between two of the most fancied teams in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel.
The 4 p.m. match between Air Force and Ateneo also promises to be a fierce the way it ended in the elims with the Raiders barely edging the Lady Eagles, 17-15, in the fifth set.
Although the Raiders are riding the crest of their victory over the Troopers, the reigning UAAP champions are also expected to come into the match oozing with confidence following their sweep of the Turbo Boosters last Sunday.
That Ateneo win checked the Lady Eagles’ back-to-back five-set losses at the close of the elims and kept their slim hopes alive for a crack at the last semifinal berth with a 3-5 mark.
But Air Force is also out to improve its 6-3 card and close in on the pacesetters heading to the crucial phase of the quarters. Joy Cases, Maika Ortiz and Judy Caballejo will have their hands full as they slug it out with the league’s top scorer Alyssa Valdez.
The power-hitting Valdez has normed 26.3 hits after eight matches with Ortiz and Iari Yongco hoping to limit the Ateneo ace and the rest of the Lady Eagles’ spikers, including Amy Ahomiro, Michelle Morente and Miren Gequillana.
Meanwhile, Cagayan will next take on Ateneo, then National U and PLDT Home Telpad before winding up its campaign against Air Force.