FOCUS will again be on newly acquired reinforcements as PLDT battles University of the Philippines battle for a berth in the finals of the Shakey’s V-League Reinforced Conference on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
A pre-tournament favorite with Alyssa Valdez lined up, Home Ultera struggled early as the UAAP MVP failed to suit up due to a back injury but Ultra Fast Hitters are back in top form after tapping a pair of talented American imports late in the eliminations.
Victoria Hurtt and Sareea Freeman proved their worth in their first match, scoring 21 and 15, respectively, in a four-set win over lowly Kia Forte to clinch the No. 2 seeding and seal a semifinal duel with UP, which wound up No. 3.
"We have the advantage against UP because of our experience,” said Home Ultera coach Roger Gorayeb. “We also have two foreign players who I think will give us more options."
Home Ultera beat UP, 25-12, 22-25, 25-15, 25-17, in their first round meeting, although Gorayeb stressed they need more time playing with Freeman and Hurtt.
"If you're going to ask me, we haven't really practiced that much. Hopefully, we could use this week to really get to familiarize with each other," said Gorayeb.
Rubie de Leon, Gorayeb’s ace setter, struggled trying to adjust their plays following the arrival of Freeman and Hurtt. But backup setter Jem Ferrer took over and finished the job with 26 excellent sets, mostly for Hurtt and Freeman.
"I will still start Rubie, but if she couldn't handle it, I will go to Jem. Rubie was probably not used to playing with players these big that's why she had a hard time in our last game. But Jem stepped up, she played well with the imports," Gorayeb said.
Top seed Army and No. 4 Navy dispute the other finals berth with the Lady Troopers and the Ultra Fast Hitters needing to win only once to arrange a title showdown in the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.