THE battle for survival among the four remaining teams begins as the two best-of-three semifinals series of the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference fire off on Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan City.
The unbeaten league leader Adamson University and fourth placer University of the Philippines open their much-anticipated semis series at 2 p.m., before University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University continue their new-age rivalry also in Game One of the other Final Four pairing at 4 p.m.
The Tigresses, who finished second in the elimination round with a 6-1 win-loss record, are seeking to ride on the crest of their nail-biting 25-15, 25-27, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11 victory over the third running Lady Tamaraws (5-2) last Saturday in Cagayan de Oro.
UST assistant coach Ian Fernandez continues to bank on rookie sensation Eya Laure, who provided the clutch hits in their previous big win over their rivals, as well as Fil-Italian Milena Alessandrini, Tin Francisco, Alina Bicar, Caitlyn Viray and rookie Ysabel Jimenez.
FEU coach George Pascua and the Lady Tamaraws, on the other hand, seek to bounce back behind Celine Domingo, Jerrili Malabanan, Jeanette Villareal, rookie Lycha Ebon, and Kyle Negrito.
All eyes will also be on the healthy competition between foreign coaches of Adamson's Air Padda and UP's Godfrey Okumu, who has been looking forward to their matchup since the Lady Falcons took down the Lady Maroons, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23, 26-24, in their elimination battle last August 12.
After their tight elimination encounter, the two coaches had a banter complimenting each other as they hoped that their teams would meet again in the next round.
And it’s happening as Padda’s No. 1 and unbeaten Lady Falcons will battle Okumu and the Lady Maroons, one of the teams that pushed them to their limits.
Despite sweeping the seven-game elimination, Padda believes that the best is yet to come for her wards bannered Eli Soyud, Bernadette Flora, Chiara Permentilla, Joy Dacoron, rookie Trisha Genesis, setter MJ Igao and libero Tang Ponce, who haven’t impressed their coach with a consistent showing.
“It would have been nice to actually finish the conference strong. That didn't happen, we're still inconsistent,” Padda said. “I'm just happy that we made it. We're the only team that's 7-0 and we didn't get that way by barely making it. There are some parts of our game that are really, really strong. I need us to be confident in that going forward.”
Adamson’s American coach has mixed emotions, anticipating a tougher chess match with UP’s Kenyan mentor.
“I know they're (UP) gonna come out strong. I do feel the best they ever played in the conference was against us. They gave us their best game. I've watched all of their games against the top teams: they were the most consistent against us,” she said. “With that said, I think we were able to see their best and that kind of makes me feel a little bit better. I know that we beat them and we weren't playing at our best.”
For Okumu, “Once bitten, twice shy.” As they are eager to bounce back and win the more important games against Adamson led by MVP candidate Soyud.
“They have a very good opposite spiker (Soyud) that if we can stop her I think our work would be easy that’s what we have to think about. She’s a threat, she plays well so we have to think on how to stop her (and) it’s gonna be by blocking, service,” he said. “We’ll work on that, that’s our plan. We played them before and it was a seesaw game, even though we lost against them, but the game was pretty much balanced. Just wish us luck.”
UP rookie Nicole Magsarile, however, is uncertain to play Game One due to sprained knee with Okumu heavily relying on Isa Molde, Marian Buitre, Aie Gannaban, Maristela Layug, Lorie Bernardo, Roselyn Rosier and setter Ayel Estrañero.
“For my team I try to put up a (right combination), right now I don’t have a definite team yet so I have to find the jigsaw, everybody has to fit,” he said.
In men’s action, joint fourth placers FEU and College of Saint Benilde clash in do-or-die playoff for the last semis berth at 10 a.m. fighting for the right to face league leader NU in a best-of-three series starting on Saturday.