MANILA, Philippines -- PLDT head coach George Pascua lamented his team's inability to close out their match against KingWhale Taipei, after the High Speed Hitters faltered down the stretch of their showdown on Tuesday night.
The High Speed Hitters were up 12-8 in the fifth set against KingWhale, but lost seven of the next eight rallies. The Taiwanese squad snatched a 23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13 victory to stay unbeaten in the semifinals of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference.
"Sabi ko sa dugout, na-unlock na natin 'yung pintuan ng opportunity na nasa loob. 'Yun nga lang, ayaw buksan, kumbaga," Pascua said after their loss.
The result gave PLDT a 2-2 win-loss record to finish the semifinals. They are mathematically still in the hunt for a place in the gold medal match against Creamline, but their fate rests on the results of KingWhale's upcoming matches.
"Sabi ko kanina, kung nanalo tayo, hindi na tayo aasa sa ibang team, na nagdadasal ka lang na matalo 'to," Pascua said. "Kumbaga, magdadasal ka lang para manalo 'yung isang team para maka-akyat ka ng finals."
"Iba pa rin siyempre 'yung pinaghirapan mo siya," he added.
The High Speed Hitters had moments of brilliance throughout the conference, and against KingWhale on Tuesday they got superb games from their middle blockers Mika Reyes and Dell Palomata.
But their offense dried up in the clutch, with KingWhale's floor defense repeatedly denying Jovelyn Prado while Jules Samonte was at the back row. The Taiwanese team also got crucial hits from the likes of Chen Li-Jun and Tsai Qin Yao.
"Siguro, hindi para sa amin talaga 'tong season na 'to," said Pascua.
"Pagdating sa dulo, 'yun lang, medyo hindi pa ganoon ka-mature talaga 'yung team namin," he added. "Pero sabi ko nga sa mga players, ang laki ng potential namin."
Pascua got a breakout season from Samonte, the former Ateneo de Manila University standout who emerged as PLDT's top options on the wing. Reyes and Palomata had their best conferences yet for the High Speed Hitters, and libero Kath Arado and setter Rhea Dimaculangan were as steady as ever.
Their coach is hopeful that their matches in the Invitational -- particularly their five-set wars against KingWhale and Creamline -- will bode well for them in the future.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, it's a test of character every game eh. Lalo na pagka ganitong labanan. Doon mo makikita 'yung tapang ng isang player," Pascua said. "So 'yun pa 'yung mga tina-trabaho namin. Siyempre sabi ko nga, 'wag lang nating i-asa sa isang tao. 'Yung collective effort, kailangan andoon pa rin."