PLDT Home Ultera hopes to draw strength again from Alyssa Valdez as it goes for the clincher against an Army team expected to bounce back strong Sunday in the Shakey's V-League Season 12-Reinforced Conference Finals at The Arena in San Juan City.
Spiked by the power-hitting Valdez's 25-point performance, the Ultra Fast Hitters came back from two sets down to pull the rug from under the Lady Troopers, 16-25, 20-25, 26-24, 29-27, 18-16, and move on the cusp of clinching their second championship this season after ruling the Open Conference crown of the league where it all started
"She's very eager to play after missing so many games. She's doing it for the fans," said PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb of the player long considered as the face of the sport, who didn’t see action from the elims to the semis to honor a previous commitment with Ateneo in the UAAP beach volley.
Gametime is at 3 p.m. following the 12:45 p.m. clash between UP and Navy with the Lady Maroons also eyeing for a sweep after scoring an 18-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-10 victory in Game One.
Both matches will be shown live on GMA News TV Channel 11 and via streaming on www.v-league.ph, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
Valdez sustained a minor back problem during the course of her beach volley campaign, forcing her to take more rest to heal the injury.
She was actually not scheduled to play in Game One of the title series but came into the match all geared up, leaving Gorayeb no recourse but to field her in from the second set on.
The rest is history.
The two-time UAAP MVP played like she didn’t miss a beat, firing 22 kills and finishing with a 25-hit game to power the Ultra Fast Hitters to a dramatic come-from-behind victory last week.
But the Lady Troopers are also raring to atone for their Game One meltdown with coach Kungfu Reyes expecting an explosive collective performance from his star-studded crew led by former MVP Jovelyn Gonzaga, Aby Maraño, MJ Balse-Pabayo, Nerissa Bautista, Joanne Bunag, Honey Royse Tubino and ace setter Tina Salak.
"Breaks of the game," said Reyes, referring to their first and only setback in the season-ending conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
"We had so many chances but we just couldn't cash in on our opportunities," he added.
Gretchel Soltones, the reigning NCAA MVP, also made a good account of herself in the title series’ opener win, coming off the bench to fire 12 points, the bulk of which she delivered in the last two sets that helped the Ultra Fast Hitters weather the Lady Troopers’ spirited fightback.
But what could spell the difference between victory and defeat are Home Ultera imports Sareea Freeman and Victoria Hurtt, who are expected to have finally blended well with the local aces and better their combined 13-point output the last time out.
"We used this whole week to fix the problem," said Gorayeb, referring to the team’s cohesion following the arrival of the two reinforcements. "I will stick with the same starting six and if it didn't work out well, I could go back to my local players again."