by Kristel Satumbaga
(Philsports Arena, Pasig City)
10 a.m. – Army vs Sta. Elena
12 noon – Air Force vs Cignal
4 p.m. – Power Smashers vs Creamline
6:30 p.m. – Pocari Sweat vs BaliPure
Defending champion Pocari Sweat aims to return with a stronger mental attitude when it guns for the crown against BaliPure today in Game 2 of their best-of-three finals in the Premier Volleyball League women’s tournament at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Match is at 6:30 p.m. with the Lady Warriors seeking to close out their title campaign following a 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24 Game 1 victory Saturday.
Searching for their third title in only two years, Pocari appears more confident at the start of the championship round with the presence of American import Krystal Rivers in front of its attack.
The 5-foot-11 Rivers provided additional offensive strength for the Lady Warriors with her jaw-dropping hard smashes in her debut appearance with the squad. She topscored for Pocari with 20 points, including 17 kills.
Pocari coach Rommel Abella hopes Rivers would unleash more of her power when she teams up anew with setter Gyzelle Sy, fellow American reinforcement Michelle Strizak and local standouts Myla Pablo and Desiree Dadang.
“We’re expecting a few more surprises from her (Rivers),” said Abella. “Kasi sa ipinapakita niya sa training, alam naming meron pa siyang ilalabas.”
“Overall, we just have to address the team’s mental toughness,” he added.
But BaliPure is not intimidated.
“Hindi naman kami natinag doon sa bagong import,” BaliPure coach Roger Gorayeb said, referring to Rivers. “Wala talaga kaming laro, nagsabay-sabay. Walang exceptional na naglaro.”
Gorayeb hopes his stalwarts will display their championship fight that earned them a seat in the finals – the team’s first after settling for third twice last year.
Thai import Jeng Bualee and power-hitting Grethcel Soltones are expected to step up anew for the Water Defenders while American Jennifer Keddy, who was limited to only eight points in Game 1, must regain her composure to help the squad extend the series.
Game 3, if necessary, is Thursday at the same venue.
Meanwhile, Creamline’s Alyssa Valdez and Air Force’s Ran-ran Abdilla lead the individual awardees after clinching the Conference Most Valuable Player awards in their respective divisions.
It was Valdez’s fourth MVP plum in the league and first for Abdilla, both members of the national training pool.
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