F2, PLDT try to repeat elimination round wins as chase for PVL title berths starts

F2 Logistics Regine Diego PVL

F2 Logistics coach Regine Diego. PVL PHOTO

F2 Logistics’ Regine Diego may be a rookie coach in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL). But she’s been around the sport long enough to know what her Cargo Movers—the lowest-ranked team in the All-Filipino Conference Final Four—need to do.

“Game 1 is always anybody’s ball game,” Diego after preparing her No. 4 Cargo Movers for their clash with powerhouse defending champion Creamline at the start of the semifinals at PhilSports Arena in Pasig on Saturday as they play a short series that makes the opening game a very important one.

“As a team, we will do our very best to [win] it and then we will take it from there,” Diego said as F2 mixes it up with top-ranked Creamline in the 4 p.m. contest, looking to duplicate a thrilling five-set conquest in the elimination round.

And it is quite ironic that the top two teams after the eliminations, Petro Gazz being No. 2, lost their only classification round duels with the lower-ranked sides they are paired with in the playoffs, with the Angels taking a tumble against PLDT, also in five sets, last Feb. 23.

Lone blemish

Creamline Cool Smashers in the PVL All-Filipino Cup. –PVL PHOTO

Creamline’s only loss in the eliminations was dealt by Diego and the Cargo Movers, a 23-25, 25-18, 16-25, 25-23, 16-14 decision last Feb. 18 where F2 fired on all cylinders and beat the loaded Cool Smashers in their offensive game.

Shooting for a second straight championship, Petro Gazz, meanwhile, battles PLDT in the 6:30 p.m. contest with coach Oliver Almadro spending the past few days making sure that his Angels don’t stay content after achieving their “realistic target.”

“The hard work just goes on for this team,” Almadro told the Inquirer in an earlier interview. “The players know what’s at stake and they are one in chasing our next goal, and that is to make the Finals.

“We will work very hard for it and hope that the Good Lord blesses us,” he said.

Petro Gazz finished second by virtue of a superior set ratio over PLDT, which will come into the game just fresh off a couple of days’ rest after dusting off crowd-darling Choco Mucho in four sets, a victory that kept the High Speed Hitters out of Creamline’s way in the semifinals.

Short turnaround

Mean Mendrez and the PLDT High Speed Hitters. –PVL PHOTO

And whether that gives the High Speed Hitters any advantage remains to be seen as they try to stop a squad that has learned to play together so well in so short a time under Almadro.

“We all know that Petro Gazz will come out to get back at us,” PLDT coach Rald Ricafort said in Filipino after practice Friday. “We are preparing hard for them even with a very tight schedule.

“We’re the only team which needed to play before the semis,” he went on. “We only had a day to prepare, so we’ll see what happens.”

“We just need to adapt,” PLDT’s Mika Reyes said. “WE maximized the day we had to prepare for them.”