PVL: Pocari Sweat turns back Perlas, advances to semis

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Pocari Sweat celebrates a point. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports.

MANILA, Philippines – Pocari Sweat took care of business on Thursday, sweeping the Perlas Spikers 25-23, 25-15, 25-18 to clinch the final spot in the semifinals of the 2017 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference at FilOil Flying V Centre.

Using their superb net defense to repeatedly frustrate the Spikers, the Lady Warriors completed a sweep of the quarterfinals phase to advance to the semifinals as the No. 3 seed.

There, they will take on the No. 2 seed Power Smashers. Top-seeded Bali Pure will battle the Alyssa Valdez-led Creamline Cool Smashers in the other semifinals pairing. The semifinals are best-of-three affairs.

Guest player Michelle Strizak had 17 points, and Cai Nepomuceno played a superb game, tallying 12 points on six attacks, three blocks, and two service aces.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, we’ve beaten the Perlas team twice already, so we know how they play. Nadagdagan lang ng dalawang imports, so minor adjustments lang,” said Pocari coach Rommel Abella.

“I told the ladies just to enjoy the game, kasi mas maganda ang laro nila pag naka-smile lang sila at nage-enjoy,” he added.

Pocari Sweat seized the momentum with a tight win in the opening frame, proving to be the more composed team in crunch time.

Perlas had tied the set at 20 off a poor serve by Jeanette Panaga, but back-to-back kills by import Michelle Strizak gave the Lady Warriors a 22-20 advantage. They reached set point, 24-22, off a kill by Desiree Dadang, but Dadang’s ensuring serve went short, allowing Perlas to save one set point.

Unfortunately for the Spikers, guest player Rupia Inck’s serve to start the next rally went straight to the net, giving Pocari the gutsy win.

It appeared that the second set would follow the pattern of the opener, as both squads exchanged points in the first 20 rallies of the frame. But a crucial 4-0 run anchored by Cai Nepomuceno put Pocari ahead, 15-11, and the Lady Warriors went on to dominate from there.

The Lady Warriors would use another mini-run to take control of the third set, as they broke away from a 9-10 deficit by scoring five unanswered points, this time with Strizak powering attacks through Perlas’ porous defense.

Perlas last threatened at 16-18, thanks to a quick hit from Amy Ahomiro. However, the Lady Warriors responded with five straight points, including a backrow kill by Strizak, to stymie their uprising before it could even start.

Pocari had a slim 34-28 lead in attack points, but it was their net defense that served to frustrate the Spikers. The Lady Warriors tallied nine kill blocks, four of which were from Nepomuceno. Perlas, as a team, had only three rejections.

Inck was the lone Perlas player in double digits with 14 points; Perlas converted only 22.76% of their spikes.

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