MARY Jean Balse came up huge anew as the Philippine Army turned back Philippine Air Force, 25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 19-25, 15-13, in the quarterfinals of the Shakey's V-League Season 10 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan on Sunday.
The two-time league MVP had 24 points from 20 spikes, one block and three service aces, as the Lady Troopers survived a tough stand by the Air Women.
Army pulled away from tied game in the fourth, scoring five consecutive points to put up a 9-4 cushion.
The Air Women came up with a 6-2 spurt to spoil the Lady Troopers' early celebration, 13-all.
Former University of Santo Tomas star Balse positioned Army at match point after a quick attack at the net. But it was Air Force's Wendy Semana who handed the win to the Lady Troopers after a hit that missed the mark.
Jovelyn Gonzaga and Rachel Anne Daquis had 17 and 14 markers, respectively, for the Army, which took two hours and seven minutes to book its ninth win in 10 outings.
Refusing to mention names, Army coach Rico de Guzman praised his wards who were determined to fight for the squad, while noting that others have not been as eager to play.
"Nagpapasalamat ako na may mga players ako na may mga players ako na binibigay ang best nila, nagpapakamatay para sa bola," said De Guzman.
"Sana lang mahawaan nila 'yung ibang teammates nila. 'Yung iba kasi pag malaki na ang lamang bibigay na."
Army looked headed to a straight sets win, but de Guzman admitted that Air Force played better in the third and fourth sets.
"Actually maganda talaga ang nilaro ng Air Force sa third and fourth sets, kahit anong palit ko ng tao kung swerte ang kalaban hindi talaga kami mananalo," he said.
"Kaya nag-adjust kami sa fifth set at saka siguro nadala na rin nung crowd halos karamihan kasi sa kanila (Air Force)," he added referring to the crowd of 2,500.
Judy Ann Caballejo had 29 points, while Semana and Joy Cases chipped in 15 and 12, respectively, for Air Force, which absorbed its third straight loss in the quarterfinals and now hold a 5-5 win-loss card.