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TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – In what could be the most thrilling match in the tournament so far, the Philippine Air Force avenged their loss to Philippine Army to live another day in the 5th Gov. Alvaro T. Antonio Friendship Games here.
The Airwomen downed the Lady Troopers, 25-17, 25-20, 17-25, 26-25, and force a knockout match on Friday, June 28.
Air Force leaned on Joy Cases, Judy Caballejo and Maika Ortiz as they foiled Army and tie them atop Bracket C, with the winner of Friday’s matchup advancing to the final round.
The Airwomen zoomed to an 11-6 lead but Joanne Bunag and Ging Balse engaged them on a spikes-galore to get within shouting distance.
Bunag then breathed life into Army as she lifted her team to just a one-point deficit, 17-16. Semana, however, nailed back-to-back service aces to give Air Force a relatively comfortable four-point cushion, 21-17.
The rest of the Airwomen then took over and completed a 25-17 first set victory.
Balse then went on videogame mode at the start of the second set, returning every PAF attack and taking a 7-6 lead before Ortiz found her groove just in time to pierce Army’s defense and reclaim the lead, 11-8.
With the Army unable to find an answer to Ortiz’s attacks, Cases added up to their misery as her timely drop shots and lethal crosscourt spikes translated to a 17-9 Air Force advantage.
But just as the Airwomen thought they had it, Jovelyn Gonzaga put on an incredible effort to bring Army to within a point, 18-19. Unfortunately, her teammates weren’t in the same wavelength as they committed one crucial error after another to surrender the second set, 20-25.
Jacq Alarca then joined Gonzaga on offense in the 3rd set, finding holes in the Airwomen’s defense to give Army a 15-9 lead and salvage some pride for themselves in the game. With their backs against the wall, Balse then secured the 3rd, 25-17 despite Air Force’s repeated attempts to get back into the game.
Cases and Alarca engaged in a livid spikefest in the beginning of the 4th frame as they tried to carry their teams on their back but it was Air Force who claimed a 6-3 lead courtesy of some clever plays from Cases.
Both teams went on to swap attack after attack until a signature Caballejo spike brought Air Force to a 23-20 lead. Army then succumbed to a critical defensive lapse to send the Airwomen to matchpoint.
Wanting to extend the game into a five-setter, Gonzaga then pulled off back-to-back hits and set up another for Alarca to close in at 23-24.
Another error, this time on the Air Force side restored parity at 24-all with both teams not allowing each other to sneak in a point. The Airwomen, however, reclaimed the lead on a crazed play as the packed venue erupted like it was the Finals already.
With pressure on both sides swelling, Army could not get the ball back to the Air Force side to give up the set and the match, 24-26. – Rappler.com