AIR Force fought back from a set down and turned back Pocari Sweat, 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-15, to clinch the top seeding in the Shakey's V-League Season 13 Open Conference at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig on Monday and arrange a semis duel with Laoag.
The Jet Spikers and the Lady Warriors actually finished tied for first with a 6-1 record at the end of the single round elims, but Air Force took the No. 1 ranking in the next round with a superior tiebreak score by the slimmest of margins.
Air Force coach Jasper Jimenez was aware that the top seed, their goal when they entered the tournament, was at stake, which was why he asked about scenarios on how to achieve the No.1 spot to league commissioner Tonyboy Liao.
“Natanong ko lang kanina kay Sir Tony, na, ‘Sir kung mananalo kami ng limang set kami ba magna-No. 1?’ Una sabi niya, oo, pero ni-review niya sabi niya kailangan daw manalo kami ng apat na set o tatlo para mag-No. 1. Ayun nga very crucial ‘yung nangyari, isang puntos lang pala, blessing in disguise,” said Jimenez.
Joy Cases and Jocemer Tapic finished with 17 points apiece for Air Force, while Judy Ann Caballejo added 14 and May Ann Pantino chipped in 12.
Veteran setter Wendy Semana registered all but one of the team’s 45 excellent sets in a match that took an hour and 44 minutes to finish. Air Force also capitalized on Pocari Sweat’s poor reception as it rained down 15 service aces compared to eight of the Lady Warriors.
Jimenez also added that although the absence of 6-foot-3 middle blocker Dell Palomata was a big blow for the team, he was pleased to see that his wards rose to the occasion.
“’Yun talaga, malaking factor sa amin ‘yung setter namin si Wendy at saka ‘yung opposite niya si Jud nadala nila ‘yung team tapos nag-contribute lahat. Although slow start kami, ‘yung game plan namin na kargahan ang service nag-prosper,” he said.
“Sobrang happy in the sense na nagsasabay-sabay na sila mag-step up. Sana pagdating ng semis at Finals lahat na magsabay-sabay. [Pero] bago magawa ‘yun, kailangan namin mag-hard work [kasi]hindi ‘yun basta-basta,” Jimenez added.
Jimenez, however, thought that one factor that affected Pocari Sweat’s game was lack of enough rest as the Lady Warriors came from a grueling come-from-behind five-setter win over Bali Pure on Saturday.
“Siguro may factor pa kasi ‘yung mga muscles nila is very tight. Ang ganda ng umpisa nila pero ‘yun nga hanggang doon lang siguro at sinwerte kami. Ganoon lang siguro ang suma noon, sinwerte kami,” he said.
Myla Pablo, the hero in Pocari Sweat’s victory over the Purest Water Defenders, had 16 points, while Elaine Kasilag and Michele Gumabao each had 10 markers.
Air Force will face Laoag in the best-of-three semis, which starts on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Pocari, which swept its first six games, settled for second spot and will clash with the Bali Pure anew in their side of the best-of-three series.