MANILA, Philippines - Air Force pulled through in a back-and-forth fourth-set duel then dominated PLDT Home Telpad in the decider to hack out a 25-21, 22-25, 17-25, 28-26, 15-8 victory yesterday and assure itself of at least a playoff for the last semifinal berth in the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan.
Maika Ortiz took charge in the decider with her powerful smashes as the Raiders rebounded strong from a third set meltdown with a gutsy stand in the fourth before saving their last in the fifth to annex their seventh win against four losses.
PLDT actually finished ahead in all but one of the scoring and non-scoring skills, ramming in 64 attacks against Air Force’s 54, doubling its rivals aces at 6, making 17 more digs than Air Force’s 40 and producing 65 excellent sets as against the Raiders’ 51.
But Air Force took the set that mattered most while coming through with a whopping 17-block performance, seven more than the Turbo Boosters’.
Four Raiders churned out double-digit scores to put to naught Suzanne Roces’ explosive 28-hit game and Gretchel Soltones’ solid 21-point effort. Ortiz topscored for Air Force with 19, while Judy Caballejo, Joy Cases and Jocie Tapic provided the needed back-up with 16, 13 and 11 hits, respectively.
Air Force coach Clarence Esteban later said the key was letting the players decide for themselves during the game.
“I just let them play,” said Esteban in Pilipino. “I just told them that even if we play bad as long as we win, it’s okay. But of course, it’s nice to win games by playing well.”
While boosting its semis bid, Air Force also foiled PLDT Home Telpad’s own attempt to nail the first Final Four berth in the tightly-fought quarterfinal race in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel.