August 04, 2022

PLDT stuns Cignal, wrests solo lead

PLDT bucked the return of Cignal's slew of hitters and rode on a gripping third-set escape to pound out a come-from-behind 15-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-23 victory and find itself the bewildered leader in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference semifinals at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, Thursday evening.

PLDT tactician George Pascual likewise sprang a surprise package in Jovie Prado, who produced 9 points in her very first game right in a stretch of the league's mid-season conference where coaches often look for something that would startle the other team's play patterns.

Prado never seen play in the elims but never showed she missed the action with her heads-up play, even delivering the key hit against two defenders that clinched their third-set win after Jules Samonte scored on an awkward hit that put the High Speed Hitters at set point.

The former Arellano stalwart, who suffered an ankle sprain before the start of the conference and tested positive for Covid thereafter, spiked her awesome debut with 21 excellent digs, matching Kath Arado's output.

But it was PLDT's fightback from 13-17 down in the fourth that highlighted their thrilling victory, their second straight, with Pascual also unleashing a gem in Erica Santos, who scored five points in a two-set appearance, four of which she delivered in the team's last six points.

That included an off-speed hit that shattered the 19-all count, another that led to Cignal's four touches, a block touch and a power blast that hit the arms of Rachel Anne Daquis and spun away from the reach of the HD Spikers, ending the one-hour, 57-minute encounter.

The loss spoiled Cignal's bid for a strong start in the semis with HD Spikers now hard-pressed to get past winless Lady Troopers tomorrow in a bid to get back into the race and avoid another late foldup that marred their Open Conference campaign.

Dell Palomata, meanwhile, continued to shine for PLDT, topscoring with 19 points, the bulk of which she drilled on quick attacks in the second frame, while Samonte finished with 12 points and Mike Reyes and Chin Basas banged in 11 hits apiece.

Ces Molina returned from ankle sprain to fire 20 points while Rachel Anne Daquis, who also skipped the team's last elims match against PLDT, added 11 hits. But Roselyn Doria and Chay Troncoso struggled coming off a break, settling for four points apiece with Ria Meneses and Angeli Araneta combining for 12 points.

The two teams split the first two sets via emphatic runs marred by a series of miscues with the HD Spikers riding on the crest of 19-10 bulge in the opening frame to fashion out a 20-minute win and the High Speed Hitters bouncing back with their own version of a roll - a six-point binge - for a 22-11 lead en route to a 19-minute romp.

But they slugged it out in the third and the High Speed Hitters kept their poise under pressure in the fourth to complete the four-set triumph and seize control of the semis.