PLDT Home Fibr swooped on a badly-depleted Cignal HD side in the early going but needed to toughen up in the stretch before hammering out a 25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 decision for the third semifinal berth in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan yesterday.
In full force against a team which showed up with just seven players, the High Speed Hitters took full advantage of their edge in manpower, dominating the first two sets but wavered in the third after securing the coveted slot. Dragged into an extended set, they leaned on the HD Spikers’ miscues at the end of the fourth to formalize their semis entry.
The one-hour and 55-minute victory thus tied them at second with their victims at 4-2 at the close of their elims campaign.
Creamline finished on top of the seven-team field with a 5-1 slate following a 25-20, 25-22, 25-16 romp over Army Black Mamba earlier.
That leaves Army and Choco Mucho to dispute the last slot in the semis to be spiced up by the KingWhale of Taiwan and Kobe Shinwa of Japan starting Tuesday.
The two foreign squads, however, won’t see action until Aug. 8.
Choco Mucho was playing with ousted Petro Gazz at presstime, needing a 3-0 or 3-1 win to tie Army at 3-3 and snatch the last semis seat via tiebreak.
The Lady Troopers received no points from their straight-set defeat to the Cool Smashers and remained with 9 points, which the Flying Titans would match with a sweep or a four-set win over the Angels.
In that case, the tie will be broken via the number of sets won with Army finishing with 11 while Choco Mucho would finish with 12, netting the Flying Titans the coveted slot.
PLDT had actually clinched the third semis seat after winning the first two sets that assured themselves of the highest tiebreak score (sets won) in case of a three-way tie. But they somewhat played stress-free in the third, enabling the HD Spikers to bounce back behind their bench players after the team suited up without the likes of Rachel Anne Daquis, Chay Troncoso and Roselyn Doria, among others, due to various reasons.
Top hitter Ces Molina also missed their second straight game with an ankle sprain.
Maris Layug later made it an eight-player rotation for Cignal as she came straight from her graduation at UP to fire a kill in the third set, helping the team force a 7-all count. The HD Spikers even looked headed to forcing a fifth set after taking command in the stretch of the fourth but the High Speed Hitters, on the prodding and goading of coach George Pascua, fought back to force a tie at 20.
After Cignal’s Jacqueline Acuna tied it last at 22, Gel Cayuna made a rare service miscue and the High Speed Hitters moved at match point on a Cignal setting error before Fiola Ceballos finished off the HD Spikers with a power blast.
Mika Reyes topscored again with 14 points while Ceballos pumped in 13 hits and Jules Samonte, Chin Basas and Dell Palomata combined for 24 points for PLDT.
Klarisa Abriam led Cignal with 15 hits while Angeli Araneta had 14 and Ria Meneses fired 11 points with Acuna ending up with eight and Layug chipping in five points on her big day.