Now comes the exhilarating part. And it’s not even the finals yet.
Top seed Creamline mixes it up with No. 4 F2 Logistics while second-ranked Petro Gazz slugs it out with No. 3 PLDT in a pair of semifinal matches in the Premier Volleyball League All Filipino Conference angled on settling old scores.
The grudge best-of-three series among the best teams to have come out of the elims grind aren’t only about gaining the head-start but also asserting or re-imposing one’s will, guaranteeing a pair of slam-bang duels tipped to go down to the last serve, quick attack or combination play, or simply kill.
It’s also about gaining confidence and momentum needed in a short series for cracks at the most coveted championship in each PVL season.
The Cool Smashers, boasting of talents like Tots Carlos, Ced Domingo, Michele Gumabao, Pangs Panaga and Jema Galanza, and the Myla Pablo-Kim Dy-led Cargo Movers face-off at 4 p.m. today (Saturday) at the Philsports Arena with the defending champions raring to get back at the very team which scuttled their sweep bid and inflicted their lone loss in five-set fashion in the elims last Feb. 18.
But F2 Logistics, backstopped by Aby Maraño, Ara Galang and Ivy Lacsina, is more than ready to prove its real worth and the Cargo Movers are so dogged to go all the way to the championship coming off their first foray in post-season play of the country's premier league organized by Sports Vision.
Like F2 Logistics, PLDT sets out for its 6:30 p.m. encounter with Petro Gazz enjoying the so-called psychological edge after the High Speed Hitters tripped the Angels, also in five, last Feb. 23.
But it isn’t all about mental but cohesion and the Cool Smashers and the Angels both appear to have blended well despite their slips to their respective Final Four rivals.
While F2 Logistics and PLDT flashed poise in pulling off those escape wins, Creamline and Petro Gazz still pack the firepower and experience observers note could spell the difference in these kind of battles.
Still, PLDT and F2 Logistics have shown winning big games is also about rising to the challenge and both are more than motivated to do a reprise and fuel their respective title drive.
“Alam naman namin ang strategy nila at gusto talaga nila (Angels) na bumawi sa amin. Pero paghahandaan namin sila kahit medyo tight ang sked namin,” said PLDT coach Rald Ricafort. “Kami lang ang team na naglaro bago mag-semis, one day preparation lang, but let’s see what happens.”
“Kailangan naming i-maximize un isang araw na break para maka-recover at makapag-plano kung ano ang gagawin. We need to adapt,” said PLDT top middle Mika Reyes, who also expects to get solid support from Jovie Prado, Michelle Morente, Dell Palomata and the vastly-improved Mean Mendrez.
Fans also can’t wait to see how Ricafort would fare against the team he steered to the Reinforced Conference crown last year.
“Pipiliin ko ang Angels kesa dun sa bad game namin vs Creamline,” said Ricafort, whose wards turned back the Choco Mucho in four the other night to clinch No. 3 and avoid facing the powerhouse Cool Smashers, who swept them last March 7.
But Petro Gazz coach Oliver Almadro is also one master motivator, whose ploys, ideas and style could easily startle the opposing team’s play-patterns.
The former Ateneo mentor also exudes confidence that he would draw the kind of games he expects from Grethcel Soltones, Aiza Pontillas, Remy Palma, MJ Phillips and Jonah Sabete given their performances in the run-up to the semis.
Meanwhile, tickets for Game 2 on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena can be purchased through online (www.ticketmax.ph) and at all SM Tickets outlets nationwide with maximum of 2 tickets per person or email address.