Army wins third straight Philippine SuperLiga title
MANILA, Philippines - Their 0-2 start to the elimination round seems like ages ago.
The Generika-Army Lady Troopers reigned supreme for the third straight time in the Philippine SuperLiga, sweeping the RC Cola-AirForce Raiders, 25-22, 25-19, 25-16, to win the league's 2014 All-Filipino Conference on Saturday evening, July 26, at the Cuneta Astrodome.
It was a dominant display from start to finish for the Lady Troopers, which won their first two PSL titles under the name TMS-Army.
But in spite of the change in designation and uniform colors, one thing remained constant on Saturday: the fact that Coach Rico De Guzman's team is still the best in SuperLiga volleyball.
After opening the game on fire to build a four-point lead, Army slowed down towards the middle of the first set, allowing RC Cola to deadlock the match at 10. Both clubs proceeded to exchange kills after, with the game tying at 22 again in the late goings.
Balse's score made the count 23-22, after which an error by Iari Yongco gave the would-be champions a two-point advantage. Not long after, Nene Bautista put another conversion on the scoreboard to help her squad draw first blood.
The Lady Troopers raced off to another quick start in set two, but did not allow their adversaries to mount a comeback. The same was the case in the third period, as De Guzman and her girls coasted to an easy win.
Tina Salak led the fight for the Army girls with 24 excellent sets and three points, edging out RC Cola's setter, Rhea Dimaculangan, who won the conference's Best Setter award. Balse topscored for the victors, putting up 16 markers in the win.
Later on, Salak would be crowned the All-Filipino Conference's Most Valuable Player, despite missing her squad's first two games - both of which the only losses the Lady Troopers suffered this conference.
Joy Cases and Judy Ann Caballejo combined for 23 points to spearhead the Raiders.
Even with the disappointing finish, RC Cola still had a spectacular campaign by finishing in second place after going winless in the 2013 PSL Grand Prix conference.
PLDT Home TVolution edges AirAsia for 3rd place
In the first PSL match of the afternoon, the PLDT Home TVolution Power Attackers out-dueled the AirAsia Flying Spikers in a thrilling four-set battle, 25-17, 18-25, 25-18, 25-23.
Both clubs exchanged victories in the first three sets, but the match really turned intense in the fourth period.
Down seven and a possible elimination in the horizon, the Flying Spikers amped up the pressure and managed to go on an 8-0 run to claim a 23-22 lead, two points away from forcing a deciding period. However, the Power Attackers had other plans and put up three straight markers to put a stamp on the game.
"This was a learning experience for us, [but] dapat nag finals kami (we should have made the finals)," mentioned PLDT head coach Roger Gorayeb during the post-game media session. "Third place is not bad naman (anyway)."
Sue Roces led PLDT with 16 points, while Charo Soriano had 14. Lou Ann Latigay pitched in as well, registering 12.
On the other hand, Stephanie Mercado had 15 for AirAsia, which finished in fourth place in its PSL conference debut.
PLDT-Philippine Air Force wins PSL men's crown
In the finals of the Philippine SuperLiga men's division, the PLDT-Philippine AirForce Power Attackers prevailed, beating Cignal HD, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21, to win the franchise's second straight title.
MVP Alnakran Abdilla led the way with 18 markers, while Jeffrey Malabanan pitched in 18.
Jay De La Cruz had 10 for Cignal.
PLDT finished with a 9-0 win-loss clip in the All-Filipino Conference (including playoffs) en route to defending its throne.
PSL All-Filipino Conference awards handed out
Following Generika-Army's championship victory, the Philippine SuperLiga handed its awards to the tournament's best performers.
Alnakran Abdilla paved the way in the men's division, winning both the Most Valuable Player and 1st Best Outside Spiker awards.
Raffy Mosuela of PLDT was also recognized, taking home the Best Libero plum while Jessie Lopez, also of PLDT, was named the Best Setter.
In the women's division, Salak was deemed the Most Valuable Player while her teammate Balse was the second Best Middle Blocker awardee.
AirAsia rookie Aby Marano was the 1st Best Middle Blocker winner while Stephanie Mercado won 1st Best Outside Spiker.
PLDT teammates Lizlee Ann Pantone and Sue Roces won the Best Libero and Best Opposite Spiker plums, respectively.
Here's the full list of award winners:
1st Best Outside Spiker: Alnakran Abdilla (PLDT-Philippine AirForce)
2nd Best Outside Spiker: Howard Mojica (Cignal)
Best Libero: Raffy Mosuela (PLDT)
Best Setter: Jesie Lopez (PLDT)
1st Best Middle Blocker: Chris Macasaet (Systema)
2nd Best Middle Blocker: Alexis Faytaren (Instituto Estetico Manila)
Best Opposite Spiker: Gilbert Ablan (Cignal)
Most Valuable Player: Alnakran Abdilla (PLDT-Philippine Air Force)
1st Best Outside Spiker: Stephanie Mercado (AirAsia)
2nd Best Outside Spiker: Joy Cases (RC Cola-Philippine AirForce)
1st Best Middle Blocker: Abigail Marano (AirAsia)
2nd Best Middle Blocker: Mary Jean Balse (Generika-Army)
Best Libero: Lizlee Ann Pantone (PLDT)
Best Opposite Spiker: Sue Roces (PLDT)
Most Valuable Player: Tina Salak (Generika-Army)