MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) KingWhale Taipei is still undefeated in the semifinals of the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference, after an impressive victory against PLDT.
KingWhale displayed tremendous poise in recovering from a four-point deficit in the fifth set, en route to a 23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13 triumph against the High Speed Hitters, Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The guest team improved to 2-0 in the semifinals, having swept Army Black Mamba in their debut on Monday.
They showed some signs of fatigue against the High Speed Hitters, dropping the opening frame, but found their second win in time.
"They are very strong. Today's competition made us learn, and it taught us many things," KingWhale coach Teng Yen Min said through a translator after the game. "Their coach is very smart, the PLDT coach."
KingWhale's Brazilian opposite hitter, Beatriz Carvalho, fired 19 points on 15 kills, three blocks and an ace, while Chen Li-Jun contributed 13 points. Their setter, Liao Yi-Jen, had 36 excellent sets as she went toe-to-toe with veteran PLDT playmaker Rhea Dimaculangan.
The High Speed Hitters drew clutch points from Mika Reyes and Jules Samonte to force a fifth set, and they looked poised for victory after surging ahead, 12-8, on a booming hit by Samonte.
But KingWhale won seven of the last eight points of the match, with the High Speed Hitters struggling to convert on offense. Back-to-back hits by Chen and Tsai Qin Yao knotted the count at 12, before a mishit by Chin Basas gave KingWhale the lead, 13-12.
Another kill by Chen put the guest club at match point, 14-12, though Jovelyn Prado saved one for the High Speed Hitters off a down-the-line hit.
KingWhale didn't have to work for the match winner, however, with Reyes sending her serve to the net.
"In set 5, the players are doing their best, and they made themselves strong in their body and heart," Teng said.
Squandered in the loss was a 19-point outing from Dell Palomata, who helped PLDT surge to an early lead in the fifth set. Reyes finished with 17 points, while Samonte had 16 markers.
PLDT finished the semifinals with a 2-2 win-loss record. Their loss assured the Creamline Cool Smashers of a spot in the gold medal match, though the High Speed Hitters can still join them in the finals pending the results of KingWhale's remaining matches.
KingWhale returns to action on Friday in a marquee match against the Cool Smashers.