MANILA, Philippines – Chery Tiggo took advantage of PLDT’s erratic start to the decider to seize the initiative and then converted the High-Speed Hitters’ errors at the end into a rousing victory in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference elims on Thursday in front of a boisterous crowd at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. The score was 25-20, 18 to 25, 22 to 25, 25 to 16, and 18 to 16.
Dell Palomata launched two ineffective quick attacks that had earlier aided in PLDT’s comeback from as many as five points down to draw the game at 12. Her final successful quick attack against two Chery Tiggo defenders even pushed the High Speed Hitters to a 15-14 lead, much to the satisfaction of their supporters who were expecting the team to finish with a flourish after going 1-4 for a chance at the final semi-final spot.
The Crossovers avoided the possibility of playing in the Final Four phase the following week with three straight losses after an impressive sweep of their first five games, but Chery Tiggo completed their own comeback from a 1 to 2 set deficit thanks to her failure to perform when it mattered most.
“Yung trust sa players namin andun lagi [we always have trust in our members], tine-train namin un kung ano ang gagawin namin sa mga ganun sitwasyon [we train what to do in that kind of situations], kung paano kami maka-recover, [how we will recover]” said Chery Tiggo coach Clarence Esteban, referring to his wards’ fightback from 1 to 2 set down. “Basta maglaro lang sila at mag-enjoy para hindi nila iisipin ang pressure [as long as when we play, we enjoy it and we would not feel pressure].”
Thus, after suffering defeats to the Creamline Cool Smashers and the Petro Gazz Angels, the league’s first-ever professional champions concluded the elims with a 6 to 2 record and will enter the semifinals with a winning attitude.
The High-Speed Hitters’ loss, however, was extremely upsetting because they were about to end a three-game winning streak after last week’s victories against the Akari Chargers and the Cignal HD Spikers kept their tenuous hopes of making the semifinals alive.
The High-Speed Hitters valiantly fought back from a terrifying fourth set blowout and a 0-5 disadvantage in the fifth set, assisted by four errors, but with a 3 to 5 card, the team ultimately ending up tied for eighth with Akari, regretting the chance to topple Chery Tiggo.
Palomata and Mika Reyes, who combined for a few blocks, banged in big hits on short plays to force a tie at 12. PLDT then turned to its middles to make the game into a nail-biting finale.
The High-Speed Hitters then drew back-to-back hits from Elena Samoilkenko before Palomata blasted in her eighth point to put the team at match point after Mylene Paat scored on a kill and the Crossovers went up by two on the next play thanks to a PLDT over-pass.
However, Paat converted on a contested crosscourt hit, and after Samoilenko had given PLDT the advantage once more, the Crossovers stopped Jules Samonte’s attempt to bring the score even again. They then won the remaining two points, the set, and the match on Palomata’s errors.
In addition to producing a few crucial hits, Jelena Cvijovic, an import from Chery Tiggo, finished with 20 points to Paat’s 23, with Cza Carandang and EJ Laure contributing 10 and 8 hits, respectively, and Roselle Baliton contributing 6 points.
For the High-Speed Hitters, who competed with the Crossovers in attacks nearly evenly, 63 to 64, and finished with more blocks, 10 to 8, and equaled their rivals’ aces at six, Samoilenko capped her prolific performance with 26 points. Reyes assisted her with 19 points, and Jovie Prado added 10 points.
However, they produced 30 unforced mistakes, seven more than the Crossovers, which ultimately turned out to be quite expensive.