Army edges Cagayan Valley in five to reach Reinforced Conference finals unbeaten
Nerissa Bautista comes up with 18 points as Philippine Army kept its record unblemished. Jerome Ascano

PHILIPPINE Army survived a tough challenge from Cagayan Valley, pulling off a 25-22, 26-24, 26-28, 23-25, 15-13 win on Thursday to secure a spot in the finals of the Shakey's V-League Reinforced Conference at The Arena in San Juan.

Guest players Dindin Santiago and Mina Aganon poured in 20 and 16 points, respectively, as the Lady Troopers remained unbeaten in five matches.

Army mainstays Nene Bautista, Tina Salak and Jovelyn Gonzaga combined for 43 points.

With the scored tied at 13 in the final set, Gonzaga put the Army at match point with a power hit and Bautista won a joust against Joy Benito to seal the win in two hours and 26 minutes.

Army coach Rico de Guzman was relieved after the Lady Troopers survived their second five-setter against Cagayan Valley.

"Ang Cagayan hindi madaling kalaban 'yan," said de Guzman, Lady Troopers coach Rico de Guzman, noting that the Rising Suns didn’t have imports in their first encounter.

“Noong walang import nga hirap na hirap na kami ano pa ngayon, maganda lang ang blocking nin Dindin at ni (Ging) Balse pero noong third and fourth set hindi namin ma-block ang import nila,” he added.

Army had a chance to complete a straight-sets win as it took a 24-21 lead but Cagayan Valley fought back, with Thai reinforcement Hyapha Amporn putting the Rising Suns ahead, 26-25. 

Amporn’s next hit went long but back-to-back errors from the Lady Troopers handed Cagayan the set.

Army again took the lead in the fourth, 9-4, but errors allowed Cagayan to recover, move ahead 21-17 and force a decider.

Amporn and Patcharee Saengmuang came up with 22 points each, while Tabaquero and Aiza Maizo had 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for Cagayan Valley, which remained in second spot with an even 2-2 win-loss card.

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