MANILA, Philippines - Ateneo and Air Force face-off in a sudden death for the last semifinal berth today with the Lady Eagles hoping to complete their amazing rise from the brink and into the Final Four of the Shakey's V-League Season 11 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
Alyssa Valdez will be the Air Spikers’ main concern in the lone match set at 4 p.m. with the league’s leading scorer expected to unleash another monster game the way she did in powering the Lady Eagles to five victories in the quarters, including three that went the distance, that gave them a crack at the last semis seat.
In their final game against the ousted National U Lady Bulldogs last week, Valdez pumped in 32 hits, including seven aces and six blocks, and drew solid backups from Bea de Leon, Miren Gequillana, Amy Ahomiro, Michelle Morente and Julia Morado.
In contrast, the Air Spikers failed to keep in step with the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns’ A-game last Sunday, fell in three sets, 26-28, 20-25, 20-25, and dropped into a playoff against a fired-up Ateneo side.
Air Force nipped Ateneo in five in the elims but the reigning UAAP champions got back at the Air Spikers in the quarters and eked out a five-setter midway in their five-game romp in the mid-season conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa and Accel.
But Air Force coach Clarence Esteban is confident his aces will step up in this do-or-die match, including Maika Ortiz and Judy Caballejo, who combined for 30 hits against Cagayan last Sunday, along with Joy Cases, Joice Tapic, Iari Yongco, May Ann Pantino, Jennifer Manzano and Rhea Dimaculangan.
Esteban’s main worry, however, is how to contain Valdez, who has normed a whopping 27-hit effort heading to this sudden death, and the Lady Eagles’ big fighting heart.
The winner in today’s match will meet top seed Army in the best-of-three finals while the No. 2 PLDT Home Telpad and No. 3 Cagayan collide in the other semis pairing starting Thursday.