Facing the same squad that had broken their hearts last conference, the Bali Pure Water Defenders came within a match of their first PVL title, stumping the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors in Game One of the Open Conference Finals, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
The Water Defenders smashed the defending champs right from the match’s onset. Aiko Urdas played inspired volleyball at the start and led Bali Pure to an 18-12 lead. Pocari Sweat crept back, finally tying the set at 22 following a Jeanette Panaga block on Urdas. The Lady Warriors, however, had no response down the stretch as Bali Pure took the opening frame via a 3-0 run capped by a Grethcel Soltones back-row bomb.
Pocari Sweat seemed to regain composure after rallying 6-0 to start the second set. Bali Pure, however, slowly nibbled at the deficit. After coming within two points, 12-14, Bali Pure took over. With Jasmine Nabor at the service line, the Water Defenders snowballed their run until they quickly took a 20-14 advantage. From there, Bali Pure replied with fury to every attempt of Pocari Sweat to adjust and closed out to take a 2-0 sets lead.
Newly-minted Conference MVP Myla Pablo kept the Lady Warriors in the third set. After Pocari Sweat fell behind, 5-12, Pablo kept the Lady Warriors’ offense in tune until they came within one, 16-17. Bali Pure, following a timeout, kept their at foes at bay, with Urdas and Jerrili Malabanan pitching in strong hits that were key in their team grabbing a 23-18 lead. Malabanan then pumped in a down-the-line hit, followed by Risa Sato’s match-clinching hit.
The Water Defenders have not yet relinquished a set to the Lady Warriors this conference. Bali Pure head coach Roger Gorayeb credits the win a total team effort.
“Lahat gumagana. Everybody is doing their job,” stressed Gorayeb, whose team has won three straight matches. “‘Yun ang maganda sa team namin. Napakababait ng mga players ko. Gusto lang din talaga manalo at maglaro para sa isa’t isa kaya pinipilit talaga nila ma-execute ‘yung mga ineensayo namin. Nagbunga talaga kanina ‘yun.”
Former National University Lady Bulldog Aiko Urdas had her best game since suffering an ACL tear two years ago, piling up 15 points. Far Eastern University product Jerrili Malabanan pitched in 14 markers.
Myla Pablo managed just nine points after being named MVP, while her fellow open hitter Elaine Kasilag led Pocari Sweat with 11 points.
Game Two will be on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Bali Pure (3) – Urdas 15, Malabanan 14, Soltones 10, Sato 8, Nabor 4, Cayuna 3, Mendiola 3, Pantone (L)
Pocari Sweat (0) – Kasilag 11, Pablo 9, Panaga 9, Nepomuceno 8, Dadang 3, Guino-O 3, Sy 3, Cayetano 0, De Leon 0, Serafica 0, Gohing (L)