Semifinal seats at stake as PVL eliminations come to a close

The single round eliminations phase of the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference comes down to an expected wild finish on Tuesday, July 18, with four teams knocking each other out for the two semifinal berths, and the other seeking to formalize its advance against a squad going all-out to stall its drive.

Only Creamline is assured of a spot in the next round, which will feature foreign guest teams from Japan and Vietnam, after the Cool Smashers completed a sweep of Pool A play in the two-group qualifying among 11 teams, leaving the final eliminations playdate a guaranteed scramble for the remaining three semifinal spots.

Alyssa Valdez of Creamline [PVL photo]

Among the five, however, F2 Logistics appears to have the inside track for the other Pool B slot as it faces a Foton side which fell short of its semifinal bid (1-3) but is eager to make things a lot tougher for the Cargo Movers and, at the same time, prime up for the Classification round.

They clash at 12 noon, with F2 Logistics hoping to erase the stigma of their tough five-set defeat to the Petro Gazz Angels last Thursday and make their stint in the semis of the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision official.

The next two matches, meanwhile, validate a pair of cliffhangers as resurgent Choco Mucho and a peaking Cignal collide at 4 p.m. for the other berth in Pool B. But while the HD Spikers will go to the crucial game in high spirits following 3-0 romps over Foton and Farm Fresh, the Flying Titans will be coming into the match physically and emotionally drained after a grueling but morale-boosting five-set escape over the Angels last Saturday.

“Nakakapagod pala talaga ang five sets,” rued Sisi Rondina after leading Choco Mucho again with an explosive 29-hit blast against the Angels, following her 28-hit exploits in a losing five-set stand against the Cargo Movers.

But the pocket-sized, high-leaping former UST hitter and beach volley stalwart is again expected to face the HD Spikers with the same power, enthusiasm, and energy while at the same time providing the leadership for a team teeming with talents but practically lacking in guidance and control inside the court.

The 6:30 p.m. Pool A game pitting Chery Tiggo and PLDT is also a toss-up, with neither team holding a distinct advantage over the other. Both swept Gerflor in their last game assignments, although the Crossovers appear to have reached their desired competitive level following a wobbly start.

Rookies Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez, Princess Robles, and setter Joyme Cagande have slowly gelled with veterans Mylene Paat, EJ Laure, Cza Carandang, and Ponggay Gaston, giving coach Aaron Velez’s bench the depth they would need when they slug it out with the High-Speed Hitters.

But while Chery Tiggo will be in full force in the all-important match, PLDT will be less one hitter, as Jovie Prado has been ruled out for the vital game after sustaining a knee injury during their clash with Creamline last Thursday.

Top hitter Me-an Mendrez has also been in and out of PLDT’s rotation, although she is expected to suit up and help anchor their bid along with Dell Palomata, Michelle Morente, Honey Royse Tubino, and skipper Mika Reyes, with Fiola Ceballos hoping to sustain her big 13-point showing against the Defenders the last time out.

Meanwhile, the Angels, virtually out of the race with a 3-2 slate after coming close to clinching the first semifinal seat following their five-set win over the Cargo Movers last Thursday, hope and pray for a Foton victory over F2 Logistics that would lead to a three-way tie at second with the loser in the Choco Mucho-Cignal tussle. Ties will be broken via the set ratio system.

Games tomorrow (July 18)
9:30 a.m. – Gerflor vs Akari
12 noon – F2 Logistics vs Foton
4 p.m. – Choco Mucho vs Cignal
6:30 a.m. – Chery Tiggo vs PLDT

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