Army, Smart dispute No. 2; PAF eyes quarters
MANILA, Philippines - Army and Smart-Maynilad clash today in a marquee matchup for the No. 2 spot even as Air Force seeks to formalize its entry in the quarters against Philippine National Police in the Shakey’s V-League 10 Open Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
Until Cagayan Province surged ahead and swept the eight-team, single round elims in impressive fashion, Army and Smart have been picked as the teams to beat in the season-ending conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
But their 4 p.m. showdown remains a match to watch with no less than the second spot and a cushion at stake heading to the carryover quarterfinal round.
The Army Women tote a 4-1 card and still have one more game against winless Far Eastern U next Friday while the Net Spikers are just half-a-game behind at 4-2 and are raring to close out their elims stint on a winning note for the needed momentum to the next round.
It will be a clash of power with the star-studded Army to be led by Jovelyn Gonzaga and former league MVPs MJ Balse, Nene Bautista and Michelle Carolino with Rachel Anne Daquis expected to have settled down after two games. The Army Women are also tops in defense with Gonzaga also leading the way with 1.13 blocks per set.
But Smart-Maynilad, which played with a depleted roster majority of the elims, has tapped former Thai import Lithawat, who fired 20 hits in her first stint against Navy last week in a win that snapped the Net Spikers’ two-game skid.
Although boasting of the league’s top setters in Rubie de Leon and Jem Ferrer, Smart-Maynilad has not really showed its true potential with Alyssa Valdez still out due to a previous beach volley commitment and Dindin Santiago failing to get a clearance to play from National U, leaving the scoring cudgels of Sue Roces, Gretchel Soltones, Maru Banaticla and Charo Soriano.
The 2 p.m. match between Air Force and PNP is also expected to go down-to-the-wire with the Air Women going for their fourth win in six games and the Lady Patrolers hoping to nail their elusive first win in six matches and stay in the hunt for the last quarters seat in the tournament backed by Mikasa and Accel.