Shakey's V-L Final Four under way
MANILA, Philippines - Unbeaten top seed Cagayan Province sets out for another sweep against No. 4 Air Force while Smart-Maynilad and Army face off in an expected thriller in today’s start of the Shakey’s V-League Season 10 Open Conference’s Final Four at The Arena in San Juan.
The Rising Suns beat the Air Women via 3-1 romps in the elims and the quarters and are raring to re-assert their mastery in their 3 p.m. encounter kicking off the best-of-three semis series of the season-ending conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
“It’s nice to get into the semis with a winning feeling, especially coming off a sweep,” said Cagayan coach Nes Pamilar after his wards barely survived the Army Women in five in the final quarters playdate last Sunday to cap their amazing sweep.
“But the semis is a different stage, there’s no room for over-confidence and we must work doubly hard,” he added.
Led by their power-hitting troika of Thai ace Kannika Thipachot, Aiza Maizo and Angeli Tabaquero, the Rising Suns seek to extend their win run to Lucky 13 after trampling rivals in the elims and the quarters although three of the last four wins were via five-setters that could’ve gone either way.
But the Air Women hope that the law of averages would finally hit the Rising Suns although coach Clarence Esteban must also bring out the best from his mainstays, led by Joy Cases, Judy Ann Caballero, Wendy Semana, Maika Ortiz, Iari Yongco and skipper Liza de Ramos.
While Cagayan is tipped as the favorite over Air Force, the Smart-Army duel remains a tossup with the two teams splitting their two games both in five sets, guaranteeing a down-to-the-wire showdown between two of the star-studded teams in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel.
“We beat them in the quarters but that’s not a guarantee we could beat them again since the semis is a different thing. Anything can happen,” said Smart-Maynilad mentor Roger Gorayeb.
From playing with an eight-player roster majority of the elims, Gorayeb now has an 11-player rotation with Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez and Thais Lithawat Kesinee and Wanida Kotruang further beefing up the already-talented Smart roster that includes Charo Soriano, Gretchel Soltones, Sue Roces, Maru Banaticla, Mica Guliman, libero Melissa Gohing and two of the country’s top setters in Rubie de Leon and Jem Ferrer.
Gorayeb hints at finally fielding in National U hitter and last conference’s MVP Dindin Santiago, whose presence could turn Smart-Maynilad a real title contender.
But coach Rico de Guzman’s Army is waiting in ambush on a team built around star players MJ Balse, Nene Bautista, Rachel Anne Daquis, Joanne Bunag, Michelle and Marietta Carolino and Iloilo ace Jovelyn Gonzaga with support from setter Cristina Salak and liberos Angela Nunag and Patricia Torres.