MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) PLDT is off to an impressive start in the semifinals of the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference, after sweeping Army Black Mamba on Tuesday at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
Veteran setter Rhea Dimaculangan put together a superb game to lead the High Speed Hitters to a 25-22, 25-18, 25-21 triumph against the Lady Troopers for their first win of the semifinal phase.
PLDT advanced to the semis as the second seed, after compiling a 4-2 win-loss record in the elimination round. They picked up from where they left off, dismissing the Lady Troopers in just an hour and 30 minutes to get a head start in the semifinals.
"Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila -- umpisahan natin ng maganda, tatapusin natin ng maganda. Then, execute 'yung game plan," PLDT coach George Pascua said after the match. "Fortunately, na-achieve naman namin 'yun."
Dimaculangan was credited with 24 excellent sets, as four players reached double-digits for PLDT led by Mika Reyes with 16 points. Dell Palomata added 12, and Toni Rose Basas added 11. Fiola Ceballos scored 10 points. The High Speed Hitters had 52 kills as a team.
The Lady Troopers clawed their way out of a 9-4 hole in Set 1 to make it a nip-and-tuck affair down the stretch. A service error by Reyes knotted the count at 22, but Army's Jovelyn Gonzaga gave PLDT back the lead with a service error of her own.
PLDT's reserves made the biggest plays of the first frame, with Eli Soyud's drop shot putting them at set point before Wendy Semana's ace settled the issue.
The High Speed Hitters won more comfortably in the second frame, using a 6-1 blast to pull away from a tight 14-13 count and take a 20-14 advantage. A mishit by Jules Samonte gave Army a glimmer of hope, 22-18, but Reyes scored the last three points of the set to put PLDT on the brink of victory.
The Lady Troopers did not give up easily, forcing a deuce at 20 off a kill by Gonzaga. But PLDT won the next four points -- two of which came off errors by Army. A Nene Bautista hit temporarily stalled the High Speed Hitters, 24-21, but Reyes quickly responded in the next rally to finish off the match.
"Nakakabigay ito ng kumpyansa para sa mga susunod naming games," said Dimaculangan as PLDT now has a 1-0 record in the semis.
Teams go back to zero in the semifinals, where they will be joined by foreign guest clubs Kobe Shinwa Women's University and KingWhale Taipei.
"Hindi pa rin kami pwede mag-relax, and one game at a time pa rin," added Dimaculangan.
Royse Tubino carried the Army offense in the first two sets and finished with 10 points, while Bautista had eight markers. But Gonzaga was marked all game long and forced to work on defense by PLDT, and she managed just six points in the contest.