RECOGNIZING Alyssa Valdez’s enormous talent and skills, Army coach Rico de Guzman said he would need three players to neutralize the top PLDT Home Ultera’s hitter in the deciding Game Three of the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference finals on Sunday at The Arena in San Juan.
“I need a three-man block squad against Alyssa since I don’t think two players can stop her,” said de Guzman of the Ateneo ace, who uncorked another 26-hit assault to lead the Ultra Fast Hitters to a series-tying 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16 victory last Sunday.
While they dealt Valdez and Co. with a come-from-behind 13-25, 25-23, 27-25, 25-22 victory in Game One last week that foiled PLDT’s ambitious sweep bid, the Lady Troopers failed to put the cuffs again on Valdez in Game Two.
Worse, 6-4 Jaja Santiago, more of a shot blocker than attacker in the early going of the season, continued to emerge as a potent offensive force for PLDT, unleashing a 13-attack game to complement Valdez’s solid performance.
Actually, PLDT coach Roger Gorayeb also drew big games from veterans Charo Soriano and former MVP Sue Roces along with Gretchel Soltones in Game Two. But Valdez remains his biggest weapon against an Army side boasting not only of an equally-star studded crew but also a roster steeped in championship experience.
Army has won two of the league’s four Opens, including a sweep of Cagayan Valley last year. But ranged against a team led by the league’s MVP and easily the best outside hitter in the land today, De Guzman wants to focus on Valdez.
That should mean any three among Gonzaga, Manabat, Mary Jean Balse, Nerissa Bautista and setter Salak will alternate in trying to contain the power-hitting Valdez.
Another cause of concern for De Guzman is the officiating, which he claimed stymied their charge in one stretch in Game Two.
“There were some calls that stopped our momentum in Game Two but I don’t want to make a fuss out of it. I just hope the girls won’t let the calls affect their game. But we promise to give it our best shot,” said De Guzman.
The rubber match is set at 12:45 p.m. which will be aired live on GMA News TV Channel 11. The sudden death is also expected to lure record crowd after the 5,000-seater venue drew 5,398 spectators in Game Two.