Army’s Lady Troopers steamrollered the PNP Lady Patrollers 25-14, 25-15, 25-15 today to pose a challenge to the league-leading Cagayan Rising Suns in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference. Starring Jovelyn Gonzaga and Mary Jean Balse, the Lady Troopers displayed just enough firepower to stamp their class over the clearly-overmatched PNP side. Despite the presence of new import, Patcharee Sangmuang from Thailand, the Lady Patrollers simply could not contain the steady artillery barrage coming from the Lady Troopers.
In today’s other match, Meralco’s Power Spikers got back to their winning ways at the expense of the Navy Lady Sailors. The Sailors were clearly in need of young swabbies who can go head-to-head with the smash specialists of today. The Power Spikers’ Coco Wang, Fille Cainglet and Maica Morada had a field day blasting laser-guided bombs on all corners of the Navy side. And the Navy ship would mercifully sink after only three salvoes 25-21, 25-22, 25-16.
But it is the much-awaited showdown between Cagayan and the Army squads, both with unblemished no-loss records, that promises to be an interesting match-up of the country’s best women’s volleyball clubs. It will be recalled that in the recently-concluded Philippine Super Liga inaugural conference won by the Army, the two rivals traded spikes and digs twice, with each one winning a hotly-contested five-setter apiece. Cagayan drew first blood with a punishing 25-23, 25-27, 26-24, 14-25, 15-12 thriller in the preliminary round. The Army however bounced back to outlast the Cagayanos in the all-important semifinal eliminator game 25-22, 25-22, 25-27, 10-25, 15-13. Two classic head-on collisions, five-setters both, with both teams claiming one win each. What makes it doubly interesting is that on both occasions, the loser would win more points collectively, yet lose 3 sets to 2. Talk about how evenly matched these two protagonists are.
That said, there is ‘unfinished business’ written all over the script for both teams. Cagayan seeks redemption from a frustrating 4th place finish in the Super Liga. Army wants affirmation as the true queens of Philippine ladies’ volleyball. Cagayan wants the crown they feel was stolen from them by the Army. The Army wants to prove winning that crown was no fluke. Cagayan has a number of national players, most of whom will be tapped for duty in Bangkok this mid-September. The Army’s mainstays, on the other hand, have mostly served the national team with pride in numerous occasions. Cagayan has youth and speed, the Army will do battle with experience and guile. In boxing, Cagayan would be Canelo Alvarez with his power and youthful exuberance, while the Army would be Floyd Mayweather with his court wisdom and mental toughness. In basketball, Cagayan would be the Miami Heat with a strong, speedy first five; while the Army would be the San Antonio Spurs, stratospherically superior, deep in years of serve and volley, and armed with an even deeper bench. This could be the Crispa – Toyota duel of women’s volleyball, folks. Or Ali against Frazier. This is for honor, prestige, bragging rights, the kitchen sink and more.
Cagayan is anchored by veteran college standouts Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Angeli Tabaquero and Wen Eulalio; with the spunky Thai imports Kannika Thipachot and Soraya Phomla, and defense specialist Jeck Dionela. This first team is as solid as you can get. And coach Nes Pamilar knows perfectly well how to mix and match his second crew to optimize production and longevity to last five sets if the need arises.
The Army on the other hand will rely on veterans Jean Balse, Tina Salak, team captain Joanne Bunag and upcoming star Juvie Gonzaga. With a star-studded line-up, coach Rico De Guzman has the luxury of completing his first six with the likes of Nerissa Bautista, Rachel Ann Daquis, Mayette and Michelle Carolino, Ers Iratay, with Sha Torres and Angela Nunag alternating at the libero post.
Cagayan’s Rising Suns versus the Army Lady Troopers. The ultimate match-up of the year. This could be the start of a truly intense volleyball rivalry. Who will come out to be this year’s smashing success? Gentlemen and ladies, place your bets.
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(Photos courtesy of cesar bailen jr, spin.ph, ph.sports.yahoo.com, gmanetwork.com, pba_online.net, arnold cruz, timawa.net, richard esguerra, solarsportsdesk.ph)