THE chase for the last two semifinal berths in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference couldn’t get any tighter and wilder as three teams of varying strength slug it out for the coveted slots against separate rivals at the close of the elims at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan on Saturday.
Army and PLDT, tied at third with 3-2 win-loss records, collide with Creamline and Cignal HD at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively, upbeat but cautious mixing it up with rivals already assured themselves of berths in the next phase of the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
Choco Mucho, which fueled its semis drive with a gripping five-set escape over PLDT the other day, also sets out for its 5:30 p.m. clash with Petro Gazz confident but likewise wary of facing an ousted team out to play the spoiler’s role.
The Flying Titans remain outside of the top 4 with a 2-3 card but could force a three-way tie for third with a straight-set win over the Angels coupled with victories by the Cool Smashers and the HD Spikers, also via sweep or in four.
The PVL points system will be used to break the tie. Heading to the final elims playdate, Army and PLDT both have 9 points while Choco Mucho has 6.
Under the PVL points system, teams receive 3 points for a 3-0 or 3-1 victory, 2 points for a 3-2 win, and 1 point for a match lost via 2-3. No points are awarded for games lost in 0-3 or 1-3 fashions or via forfeit.
But that could drastically change after the results of the only triple-bill slated in the league’s elims schedule with the novel semifinals firing off Tuesday where the Kobe Shinwa from Japan and the KingWhale from Taiwan will join the four local squads.
The two foreign guest teams, however, will only see action starting August 8 in a daily grind to the finals with August 11 set as the rest day.
Focus, however, will be on the three crucial matches at hand with the Lady Troopers seeking to ride the momentum of their three-set romp over the also-ran Chery Tiggo Crossovers last Tuesday.
But the seasoned crew of Jovelyn Gonzaga, Joanne Bunag, MJ Balse-Pabayo and Nene Bautista, along with Ivy Perez, Jeanette Villareal, Audrey Paran, Mary Anne Esguerra, Angela Nunag, Christine Agno and Jem Gutierrez will have a lot of work to do to stop the Cool Smashers, who bounced back from a four-set defeat to the HD Spikers with victories over the Flying Titans and the Crossovers.
Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses even hinted at the team’s desire to keep their win run going into the semis.
“Hopefully, we could win again para maganda ang pasok sa semis,” he said.
Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos also wants his wards to pull out all the stops for the momentum needed in the cutthroat semis battle with the HD Spikers out to erase the stigma of their Open Conference meltdown that had them dominating the elims and the quarters, only to lose steam and bow to the Angels in the semis.
But from the looks of things, Rachel Ann Daquis, Chay Troncoso, Angeli Araneta, Roselyn Doria, Ria Meneses and ace playmaker Gel Cayuna are more than ready to challenge the best and go all the way to the championship with top hitter Ces Molina hopeful to recover from an ankle sprain the last time out.
The High Speed Hitters, however, are also eager to rebound strong after dropping a five-setter to Choco Mucho last Thursday with coach George Pascua to lean anew on his tested combination of Mika Reyes, Jules Samonte, Chin Basas, Dell Palomata, Fiola Ceballos, Rhea Dimaculangan and Joy Soyud, who all expect to come out better and stronger after falling short the last time out.
On the other hand, the Flying Titans, with Kat Tolentino, Chery Nunag and Des Cheng back in the groove and with Isa Molde, Bea de Leon and Ponggay Gaston and setter Deanna Wong raising the level of their respective games, go flat out not only to overcome the Angels but also to dispatch them in three for the needed points in the tiebreaker.
“We may be down, we may be 1- or 2-man down but I’m happy most of them step up when they are needed,” said Choco Mucho coach Oliver Almadro. “Our semis hopes are still alive. We will never say die, we will fight till the end.”
Games are aired live on One Sports (free to Air Ch 41 and Cignal CH 6) and One Sports+ (Cignal Ch 91 SD, Ch 261 HD). Both channels are also available on Cignal’s OTT Platform, Cignal Play, with video on demand also available on the platform.
Matches can also be streamed on social media application KUMU and on the league’s official website pvl.ph.