Games today (Ynares Center, Antipolo)
2:30 p.m. – Army vs Creamline5:30 p.m. – Cignal vs PLDT
Going ahead of the pack early in a tight race could indeed boost one’s morale. But PLDT knows full well it will take more than confidence to spike a dream title run.
“Yes, we’re confident but we can’t relax,” said ace playmaker Rhea Dimaculangan, whose 24-excellent set performance helped steer the team to a 25-22, 25-18, 25-21 victory over Army in the lone match kicking off the semifinal round of the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan Tuesday.
The High Speed Hitters take on the Cignal HD Spikers in the 5:30 p.m. main game of today’s (Thursday) explosive twinbill that also features the Creamline-Army clash at 2:30 p.m. as action shifts to the Ynares Center in Antipolo for the next two playdates.
The Cool Smashers, chasing a second straight championship after dominating the Petro Gazz Angels in the Open Conference last April, are fancied to make it two-in-row over the Lady Troopers, whom they swept, also at the close of the elims last weekend.
But the likes of Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza and Alyssa Valdez, along with Michelle Gumabao, Celine Domingo, Pangs Panaga, Risa Sato and Jia de Guzman aren’t taking any chances against the veteran-laden Lady Troopers seeking to get back into the thick of things of a short single round robin phase among six teams.
But focus will surely be on the duel of sister companies.
PLDT, which finished fifth in the Open Conference while trying to find its rhythm and chemistry, repulsed Cignal in four to finish behind Creamline at the close of the elims with the fired-up High Speed Hitters eager to duplicate the feat and build some cushion in anticipation of grind-out matches next week when the two foreign guest squads—Kobe Shinwa of Japan and Taiwan’s KingWhale—will spice up the title chase.
But coach George Pascua has opted to downplay their surge, saying: “We’re taking it step-by-step, one game at a time until we reach our goal. At least, little-by-little, we’re getting there. We just have to be consistent to be able to sustain our run.”
He also spoke of the need for timing, referring to key substitutions in the crucial stages like what he did when he put in Joy Soyud and Wendy Semana in the third set that saw the two deliver with a point apiece, both clutch hits.
“I always tell them that when you are given an opportunity, you have to contribute. One point is a big thing,” added Pascua.
But he would need to draw more outputs, not just from Soyud and Semana, but also from his starters to score a repeat over a Cignal side raring to make up for its Open Conference meltdown with a strong semifinal drive in this Invitational.
But Mika Reyes has stepped up her game, in blocking and quick attacks, along with Dell Palomata and Fiola Ceballos with Jules Samonte expected to put up a more explosive performance to help sustain the High Speed Hitters’ drive for a third championship appearance.
The HD spikers, however, dropped their last game to the High Speed Hitters partly due to their depleted roster as coach Shaq delos Santos rested some of his starters for the tough semifinal battle. Expected to come out fresh in today’s key match are Rachel Anne Daquis, Chay Troncoso, Roselyn Doria and Arielle Estranero.
Top hitter Ces Molina, however, remains a doubtful starter with an ankle sprain.
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.