Army, Air Force seek strong quarterfinal start
ARMY and Air Force hope to sustain their stirring forms today when they square off with separate rivals at the start of the quarterfinals of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Bannered by experienced campaigners, Army battles a dangerous Philippine National Police squad in the 2 p.m. game that will be followed by the Air Force-Smart tussle.
The Lady Troopers handily beat the Lady Patrollers, 25-14, 25-15, 25-15, in their elimination round showdown last Sept. 3, but PNP is riding high on a two-game winning run entering the quarterfinals.
“We need to improve in the quarterfinals particularly with our defense,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman.
The Airwomen seek a sixth straight victory when they battle the Net Spikers in the other game at 4 p.m.
Facing an undermanned Smart squad last Sept. 6, Air Force prevailed in straight sets, 25-22, 25-18, 25-17—a win that marked the start of its turnaround in the tournament.
But Smart will be parading a stronger team this time with ace hitter Alyssa Valdez and Thai reinforcement Phee Nok Kesinee boosting their offense in a bid to improve on their 4-3 record.
Valdez debuted with 28 points, but Smart still lost to Army, 22-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 13-15 last Sunday.
Air Force coach Clarence Esteban hopes his star-studded roster led by Joy Cases, Judy Caballejo, Maika Ortiz, Liza de Ramos, Wendy Semana and setter Rhea Dimaculangan will be up to the challenge against Smart.
Jovelyn Gonzaga has been a revelation of sorts for Army in the tournament, while setter Tina Salak continues to be instrumental in getting the Army attack going.
PNP nipped Philippine Navy, 25-16, 25-14, 17-25, 25-21, last Friday to complete the six-team cast, but the Lady Patrollers are under pressure to improve on their 2-5 card if they want to clinch a spot in the Final Four.
Lady Patrollers coach Bob Malenab knows his team will be in for a tough grind.
“We have to double our efforts and keep fighting,” said Malenab.
Janine Marciano, who topped the scoring department in the eliminations with 115 points, will banner the Lady Patrollers along with San Beda teammate Ces Molina and Thai reinforcement Patcharee Sangmuang.