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Chery Tiggo checks skid, ousts PLDT

Chery Tiggo pounced on PLDT’s erratic start in the decider to seize control then parlayed the High Speed Hitters’ miscues at the finish into a rousing 25-20, 18-25, 22-25, 25-16, 18-16 victory in a big close-out win in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference elims before a loud crowd at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday.

Dell Palomata fired two flawed quick attacks that had earlier helped steer PLDT’s rally from as many as five points down to force a tie at 12 and her last converted swift hit against two Chery Tiggo defenders even shoved the High Speed Hitters to a 15-14 lead to the delight of their fans bracing for the team to finish with a flourish after going 1-4 for a crack at the last semis seat.

But she failed to deliver when it mattered most, enabling Chery Tiggo to complete their own fightback from 1-2 set down as the Crossovers averted the specter of going to the Final Four phase next week reeling from three straight losses after an impressive sweep of their first five games.

"Yung trust sa players namin andun lagi, tine-train namin un kung ano ang gagawin namin sa mga ganun sitwasyon, kung paano kami maka-recover," said Chery Tiggo coach Clarence Esteban, referring to his wards' fightback from 1-2 set down. "Basta maglaro lang sila at mag-enjoy para hindi nila iisipin ang pressure."

The league’s inaugural pro champions thus finished the elims with a 6-2 slate and will head to the semis with a winning feeling following losses to the Creamline Cool Smashers and the Petro Gazz Angels.

The setback, however, was so frustrating for the High Speed Hitters, who were on the verge of capping a three-win run after hurdling the Akari Chargers and the Cignal HD Spikers last week that kept their slim semis hopes alive.

But with a 3-5 card, the team wound up tied for seventh with Akari, ruing the chance to upend Chery Tiggo after the High Speed Hitters fiercely battled back from a harrowing fourth set blowout and a 0-5 deficit in the fifth aided by four miscues.

PLDT went to its middles to turn the match into a nerve-wracking finish as Palomata and Mika Reyes blasted in crucial hits on quick plays while combining for a couple of blocks to force a tie at 12.

Then after Mylene Paat scored on a kill and the Crossovers went up by two on a PLDT over-pass in the ensuing play, the High Speed Hitters drew back-to-back hits from Elena Samoilkenko before Palomata banged in her eighth point to put the team at match point.

But Paat scored on a contested crosscourt hit and after Samoilenko put PLDT back into the lead, the Crossovers foiled Jules Samonte’s attack to draw level again then took the last two points, the set and the match on Palomata’s mishits.

Chery Tiggo import Jelena Cvijovic also produced a couple of clutch hits and finished with 20 points, next to Paat’s 23 markers, while Cza Carandang and EJ Laure added 10 and eight hits, respectively, and Roselle Baliton chipped in six points.
Samoilenko capped her prolific performance with 26 points, while Reyes backed her up with 19 points and Jovie Prado scored 10 points for the High Speed Hitters, who battled the Crossovers in attacks almost evenly, 63-64, and finished with more blocks, 10-8, and matched their rivals’ aces at six.

They, however, yielded 30 unforced errors, seven more than the Crossovers, that in the end, proved so costly.

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