Fancied Philippine Army, Cagayan Valley meet again as Shakey's V-League title series underway
Army coach Rico De Guzman hopes stalwart Dindin Santiago will suit up for the Lady Troopers in the Finals against Cagayan Valley. Jerome Ascano

PHILIPPINE Army and Cagayan Valley rekindle their seething rivalry as the two teams begin their best-of-three title series in the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 Foreign Reinforced Conference at The Arena in San Juan on Sunday.

Game One of the Finals between the Lady Troopers and Lady Rising Suns, who faced each other for the title in the Open Conference, is set at 4 p.m.

The doubleheader kicks off with the battle between Systema Tooth Gum Care and Instituto Estetico Manila at 2 p.m. for the maiden men’s championship followed by the awarding ceremony for the top individual players of the conference.

Army will be going into the game undefeated in all of their six games during the double round elimination behind the solid teamwork of Jovelyn Gonzaga, Nene Bautista, Ging Balse, Tina Salak and guest players Dindin Santiago and Mina Aganon.

But coach Rico De Guzman could only hope the Lady Troopers will be coming to the title series with the benefit of a complete lineup.

“Sana sa Finals andyan lahat (ng players),” said de Guzman, obviously referring to Santiago and Aganon, who also plays for Petron in the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix, which co-incidentally, is being played on a Sunday.

The 6-foot-2 Santiago averaged 17 points per game  while Aganon normed 8.2 points in the five outings they played with Army, which is going for a back-to-back title after winning the Open Conference championship.

The Lady Troopers swept their head-to-head match-up with the Lady Rising Suns in the eliminations, including a 17-25, 25-17, 17-25, 25-21, 15-13, win in the first round against an import-less Cagayan Valley side.

"Wala ngang import hirap na hirap kami sa Cagayan kaya kailangan namin si Dindin, siya ang pantapat namin sa import ng kalaban," said de Guzman.

Cagayan will be led by the deadly tandem of Aiza Maizo and Angge Tabaquero, who averaged 17 and 10.2 points for the Lady Rising Suns.

Thai reinforcements Hyapha Amporn and Pacharee Saengmuang are also doing their share with their 14.3 and 15.0 points average per game despite suiting up for just three games with the team.

Given the numbers, Cagayan coach Nes Pamilar though is still not convinced the Lady Rising Suns, Amporn in particular, is ready for the title match.

"Kailangan pa namin mag-usap (ni Amporn)," he said. "Kung ganyan ang lalaruin namin sa Finals hindi ko alam."

"Basta gagawin na lang namin ang lahat (para manalo)," he added.

Meanwhile, Systema and IEM are expected to go all-out as they dispute the inaugural men’s title in the opener of their own best-of-three series.


Already without leading scorer Myco Antonio during the final game of the eliminations due to acid reflux, the Active Smashers’ health woes further deepened as ace spiker John Depante sprained his right ankle during the match against the Phoenix Volley Masters 
Antonio is averaging 16 points per game while Depante is norming 12.5 points.

Still EM coach Jun Balubar remained wary of Systema, which still has a deep bench despite without Antonio and Depante.

"We cannot discount the replacement for Depante, there is the combination of Mark Lee and Angelo Espiritu. Malalim ang bench ng Systema so regardless ng lalaro or hindi si Depante, handa kami sa Systema," he said.

The Phoenix Volley Masters ended the elimination with a four-game winning run capped by a 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-21 victory against Systema.

"I'm hoping for the best. We will prepare for the championship. It's different kasi mataas na ang emotion," said Balubar.

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