PLDT carved out a 14-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-15 victory over Petro Gazz on Tuesday to force a sudden death for a finals berth in the Premier Volleyball League All Filipino Conference before a packed crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday night.
Libero Kath Arado took the spotlight in a match normally reserved for power hitters and middles but her stellar play she spiked with 26 excellent digs and 12 excellent receptions virtually reduced to supporting roles Michelle Morente, Jovie Prado, Mean Mendrez and Mika Reyes’s combined 53-point output.
“Perhaps it’s the trust that the coaches and my teammates have in me,” said Arado of her game-long exploits that featured spectacular saves and receptions that foiled the Angels’ series of attacks while setting up a number of PLDT assaults—behind Rhea Dimaculangan’s playmaking prowess—in the last two sets.
“I just give back all the sacrifices we have in training,” Arado added.
It was a big bounce back for the High Speed Hitters, who yielded a 25-22, 19-25, 21-25, 18-25 loss to the Angels in the opener of their best-of-three semifinals series at the PhilSports Arena last Saturday.
They dispute the other finals seat Thursday also at the Pasay City venue.
For a while, the Angels appeared headed for an early exit after the Angels spewed fire at the start and dominated with a whopping 11-point win.
But the High Speed Hitters regrouped in the second frame, wresting early control then blowing a late lead but surviving in a tense-filled ending marked by breaks.
With Prado anchoring their defense and Dimaculangan, playing inspired on her special day, providing the plays for their designated hitters, the High Speed Hitters sustained their charge in the last two sets to post the runaway victory.
They led by as many as 11 points, 23-12, in the third after Mendrez’s back-to-back hits and broke away from a tight 12-10 game to a 20-10 bulge in the next with Prado taking over in offense.
Dimaculangan finished with 25 excellent sets, producing four digit scorers in Morente (16), Prado (15) and Reyes and Mendrez, who scored 11 points apiece.
“I told the girls that we gave up the first set to warm up from our slow start,” said PLDT coach Rald Ricafort, who steered the Angels to the Reinforced Conference crown last December. “We didn’t have the focus and intensity in the first set.”
Jonah Sabete fired 13 points and finished with nine excellent receptions for the Angels, who also drew 12 point each from Aiza Pontillas and Grethcel Soltones.
After getting clobbered by the Angels in the opening frame, the High Speed Hitters took control majority of the second but saw their 18-15 lead fade in the face of the former’s blistering charge.
Behind Sabete, Soltones and Pontillas, the Angels racked up six straight points to grab the lead at 21-18. But the High Speed Hitters recovered and pulled through in a tense-filled ending marked by breaks, including coach Ricafort’s crucial challenge that shattered the 23-all count.
Soltones blocked Morente’s attack to put Petro Gazz at set point but Ricafort proved right as the Angel’s spiker’s arms touched the net upon review of the play, reversing the decision and shoving the High Speed Hitters instead to match point.
Morente then foiled Soltones’ blast in the ensuing Petro Gazz offensive.
Unlike in the previous call, however, the Angels’ ball in/out challenge proved unsuccessful as replay showed the ball clearly hit the line.