Air Force Spikers overcome Lady Eagles and flu-ridden Alyssa Valdez to complete V-League semis cast
Mary Ann Pantino of the Air Force tries to get the ball over Michelle Morente of Ateneo. Dante Peralta

AIR Force put an end to Ateneo’s sizzling run, pulling off a 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 win on Tuesday to claim the last berth in the round of four in the V-League Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan.

The Air Women came up with the straight sets win in an hour and 31 minutes as league scoring leader Alyssa Valdez played for Ateneo despite a fever.

“Sabi ko sa kanila samantalahin na natin, mababa ang laro ni Alyssa, 'di gaanong malakas ang mga palo niya,” said Air Force coach Clarence Esteban.

Valdez strugled with flu-like symptoms and said she even threw up before the match. The UAAP star, who entered the match with a 27.8 scoring average, still came up with 18 points and Michelle Morente added 10, but that was not enough to extend the Lady Eagles five-match streak.

Air Force set up a best-of-three showdown with top seed Philippine Army, while second seed PLDT battles defending champion Cagayan Valley, seeded third, in the other semifinal.

Former University of Santo Tomas standout Judy Ann Caballejo scored 11 points, while the unheralded May Ann Pantino from AMA Computer College came up with the winning hits down the stretch for the Air Women.

Pantino had seven markers, including the last three points as Air Force to broke loose from 22-all.

“Pinaghandaan talaga namin ito. Umaga’t hapon nagpa-practice kami. Gusto kong ibalik sa kanila ’yung spirit na kailangan manalo," said Esteban.

It was a big win for the Air Women, whose three-set loss to Cagayan Valley on Sunday set up the playoff against Ateneo for the No. 4 spot.

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