MANILA, Philippines -- The Go-For-Gold-Air Force Jet Spikers banked on their championship experience to outlast PLDT Home Fibr in Game 1 of their best-of-3 semifinals series in the 2019 Spikers' Turf Reinforced Conference.
RanRan Abdilla starred in the Jet Spikers' 22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 21-25, 15-12 triumph over the Power Hitters on Thursday at the Paco Arena.
"Talagang mabigat din na team ang PLDT. ‘Yun nga ang sabi ko, may the best team win, kasi talaga lahat gusto manalo. So sabi ko itong semis na ‘to, pahirapan talaga ‘to hanggang sa makarating ka sa finals," said Air Force head coach Rhovly Verayo.
Up by a point, 5-4, in the fifth set, Abdilla stepped up big for Air Force, scoring three points on a 4-0 run en route to a 9-4 lead. The Power Hitters fought back and were able to close the gap by one point after a kill from Pao Pablico and an attack error from Madz Gampong, 12-13.
Abdilla again came to Air Force's rescue, scoring two consecutive kills to seal the victory.
"Sinabihan ko si Ranran na hindi na pwede sa 'kin ‘yung hulog hulog, gusto ko paluin mo lang ng paluin, wala akong pakialam kung ma-block nila, [e di] sa kanila. ‘Pag hindi nila ma-block, [e di] sa atin, kasi kailangan mo rin talagang bigyan ng kumpyansa ‘yung tao eh," Verayo said.
Jessie Lopez glued things together with 27 excellent sets while tallying three points.
Despite coming out with a win, the Jet Spikers' went through a tough time fending off the pesky Power Hitters in the previous sets.
The first three sets were a nip-and-tuck affair that saw Air Force come out on top, 2-1.
With his team facing defeat in the fourth set, Joshua Umandal revived PLDT's hopes and led a 3-1 rally to hand his team a four-point lead, 22-18, late.
Air Force fought back as Saura and Fauzi Ismail converted a kill block and an off-speed attack, respectively to cut the lead to two, 20-22. However, consecutive errors from Pitrus De Ocampo and Abdilla proved costly for the Jet Spikers as PLDT forced a deciding fifth set.
Umandal paced PLDT with 21 points, with 20 coming from attacks, while Pablico added 11 points, nine digs, and 11 receptions.
National Team stalwarts Mark Alfafara and John Vic De Guzman, who were coming off a bronze stint with Rebisco-Philippines in the 2019 Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championships, played limited minutes. Alfafara only played in the third set, finishing with just a point, while De Guzman had eight points, playing in just the last two sets.
Air Force will look to close it out while PLDT will fight for survival on Sunday, June 14, at 4 p.m. at the same venue.
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