Complacency remains Pocari Sweat’s Achilles heel

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Pocari Sweat’s Myla Pablo and Desiree Dadang try to stop Jovelyn Prado of the Power Smashers. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – A recurring problem cropped up anew for Pocari Sweat as the Lady Warriors on Tuesday fumbled an opportunity to march to the Finals of the 2017 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference.

Pocari Sweat had the Power Smashers on the ropes after winning Game 1 of their best-of-3 semifinals series, and then taking a two-set lead in Game 2 at the PhilSports Arena.

Needing just another set to make it back to the Finals of the conference that they also ruled in last year’s V-League, Pocari instead came out flat in the third set, losing 18-25. That gave the Power Smashers all the momentum they needed to roar back and win in five thrilling sets, 24-26, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-13.

“First two sets, we won, and then we became complacent again,” admitted Pocari coach Rommel Abella. “This time, wala ng bawi, unfortunately [We couldn’t recover].”

This is not the first time that the Lady Warriors squandered a two-set advantage. In Game 1 last Saturday, they were also comfortably ahead by two points, but were dragged to a fifth set by the resurgent Power Smashers. Pocari survived that game, but could not pull off the escape act for a second consecutive contest.

“The Power Smashers played really well, and they forced us into a lot of errors,” said Abella, whose players committed a whopping 33 unforced errors in the match that lasted two hours and 12 minutes.

“We didn’t adjust doon sa mga ginawang bago ng Power Smashers. I guess, nag-aral sila noong game namin. We had to adjust to what they were doing, but unfortunately, hindi nakayanan noong mga players ‘yung adjustments,” the Pocari coach further explained.

[We had to adjust to the new things that the Power Smashers did. They clearly studied our game. We had to adjust to what they were doing, but unfortunately, the players couldn’t execute those adjustments.]

Pocari import Michelle Strizak, who had a game-high 33 points, struggled to explain why the Lady Warriors are having trouble closing out their opponents.

“We kind of let up, and I don’t know what happened,” she said. “But we’ll figure it out on practice.”

Their star local, Myla Pablo, believes that the Lady Warriors’ exhaustion has become a major factor in the semifinals. Pocari played in a multitude of five-setters in the two-round eliminations, and two of their three quarterfinal matches went the distance as well.

That they are playing with just one import while their opponent has two only adds to their worries. Strizak and Pablo have been carrying most of the load offensively. In Game 2, Strizak attempted 86 spikes, and Pablo, 50.

“Pagdating ng fifth set, parang ‘di na kami nakakagalaw,” said Pablo, who had 20 points in Game 2. “Parang ‘yung paa namin, na-stuck na lang, parang ‘di na kami makabawi once na mag-umpisa kaming mawalan ng receive or mawala sa laro.”

“Tapos, nawawalan kami ng ingay sa court. Nakasimangot na kami, ganoon,” she added. “Pag tumatahimik kami parang bawat isa pinoproblema na namin ang isa’t-isa.”

[By the time we get to the fifth set, we can barely move. It’s as if our feet are glued to the court, and we can’t recover once we fail to receive. We also stop communicating inside the court, and we start frowning. We grow quiet and start overthinking our problems.]

Not all is lost for the Lady Warriors, however, as they still have Game 3 on Thursday. Abella does not anticipate that they will have to make too many adjustments. After all, they raced out to a 2-0 set lead before taking their foot off the gas and then succumbing to poor play.

“Reception,” Abella said of the key to Game 3. “We have to be more committed sa receive, and lessen our errors pa din.”

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