MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors capped a maiden season to remember by claiming the championship in the V-League Season 13 Reinforced Conference in impressive fashion on Monday at the Philsports Arena.
The Lady Warriors were unstoppable in the first two sets, overcame a third-set loss, then held off Bureau of Customs in the fourth set to come away with a 25-14, 25-10, 22-25, 25-23 victory in front of a raucous crowd.
With the victory, the Lady Warriors underlined their dominance of Alyssa Valdez and the Transformers in the conference. They had beaten Customs in their elimination round match-up in straight sets, 25-22, 25-22, 25-14, and then cruised past them in Game 1 of the Finals last Saturday, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18.
Pocari, in just its very first stint in the V-League, won two championships. The Lady Warriors earlier ruled the Open Conference.
"Very happy kami, very ecstatic, kasi na-achieve namin 'yung goal namin from the start of the tournament, which is to win again the championship," said Pocari coach Rommel Abella. "I'm so proud of the way the players played today."
The Lady Warriors were simply dominant in the first two sets, again using their blocking to frustrate the Customs attackers, especially Valdez and Thai guest player Kanjana Kuthaisong.
With their backs against the wall in the third set, the Transformers finally registered a breakthrough win against Pocari. A crucial 4-0 blast midway through, anchored on Kuthaisong's attack and ace, gave Customs control of the frame, 16-112. They went on to lead by as much as five points, 20-15, after a down-the-line kill by Kuthaisong who proved unstoppable in the final two sets.
The Lady Warriors were able to come as close as two points, the last at 22-24 after Michele Gumabao's crosscourt kill, but the Transformers were able to extend the match off Rose Vargas' hit that powered through the Pocari blockers.
"We relaxed," Abella said frankly. "We relaxed. We became complacent."
"From the start, I told the players that we can't be complacent, kasi ang BOC, alam natin na lalaban at lalaban. They're not just gonna fold. Sabi ko sa kanila, if they make an effort, we have to double it," he said.
"At least, in the fourth set, nabawi namin."
In a back-and-forth fourth set, it was Pocari that displayed composure in the closing stretches. After Vargas tied the frame for the last time at 23, she committed a brutal attack error in the very next rally, sending the ball straight into the net and drawing a groan from the mostly pro-Customs crowd.
With Pocari now at match point, 24-23, Customs coach Sherwin Meneses called a timeout. The break in action proved futile, however: upon the resumption of the game, unheralded Pocari middle blocker Siemens Dadang fired up a serve that bounced off Valdez's arms at an awkward angle, and the Transformers were not able to secure the ball.
Dadang finished the game with seven points on five blocks, and the game winning service ace. Pocari's import, Breanna Mackie, had a team-high 23 points, while Michele Gumabao had 14 points on 10 attacks, two blocks, and two aces. Gumabao was later named Finals MVP.
Valdez was limited to only 10 points after connecting on nine of just 25 attacks. It was her lowest output of the season; her second-lowest output came in Game 1 of the series, when she mustered only 12 points in the straight sets loss. Valdez did have 12 excellent digs and 15 successful receptions, but her team sorely missed her offense.
"We just try to limit her," said Abella of Valdez. "Hindi naman talaga natin mas-zero si Alyssa. Knowing Alyssa, gagawa at gagawa ng paraan 'yan just to make a point and buhatin 'yung team niya. We just try to limit her production, and good thing na-limit namin siya this past two games."
With Valdez not having her usual share of attempts, it was Kuthaisong who took over offensively for BOC. The 19-year-old Thai import had 32 points on 28 attacks, two blocks, and two aces, proving to be a headache for Pocari's usually stout net and floor defense.
In the end, however, the Lady Warriors were simply too much for the Transformers. Pocari dominated nearly all statistical departments, tallying a 57-49 advantage in attacks, a 10-2 advantage in blocks, and a 7-5 edge in aces.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)