Rivers leads Lady Warriors close to PVL Reinforced Conference crown
Mark Escarlote on Jun 10, 2017 08:26 PM
Pocari Sweat inched a step closer to claiming the inaugural Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference crown.
Pocari Sweat needed a little time to warmup.
So did American import Krystal Rivers in her debut for the Lady Warriors.
But when the combination of Rivers, compatriot Michelle Strizak and local star Myla Pablo clicked, Pocari Sweat moved a step closer to another title.
The Lady Warriors recovered from a bad start and a scary moment in the fourth to prevail over the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24, Saturday night in Game 1 of the best-of-three Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals series at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Rivers, who was cleared Thursday to replace injured Bosnian guest player Edina Selimovic, started out flat with three straight errors. But when she got her bearing deep in the match, the 5-foot-11 opposite from Alabama proved to be good as advertised.
Rivers scored 20 points with 17 coming off attacks and three kill blocks to lead Pocari Sweat. Strizak finished with 18 markers while Pablo had 14 kills in her 16-point outing. Jeannette Panaga added 12 points anchored on four aces and three kill blocks that highlighted the Lady Warriors solid net defense that resulted to 15 kill blocks.
Pocari Sweat went off to a shaky start, struggled in their set plays and were plagued by errors especially on the service line in the closing stretch of the opening frame.
"Masyado kaming tense kasi going into the first set, kasi sobrang pumped up ang mga players kasi makakalaro si Krystal for the first time. I just told them to settle down kasi ang energy ng mga players sobra eh. Nago-overflow. 'Yun ang nagbaon sa amin sa first set," said Lady Warriors coach Rommel Abella.
Rivers played her best run of the match in the third set, leading the Lady Warriors’ assault to turn an 11-12 deficit to an 18-12 cushion. The Water Defenders counterattacked to close the gap, 24-22, but Rivers pounded an off the block kill to give Pocari Sweat a 2-1 match lead.
With momentum on their side, the Lady Warriors raced to an early 11-5 lead in the fourth frame. Pocari Sweat saw its 15-8 lead evaporate and went behind, 22-24. BaliPure hitter Grethcel Soltones committed a crucial error on her service attempt on the next play, enough to give the Lady Warriors an opening to seal the match.
Rivers tied the set at 24 on a block against Water Defenders Thai import Jeng Bualee. Another defensive gem from Jessey De Leon in front of the net against American import Jennifer Keddy's attack gave Pocari Sweat the matchpoint advantage before the game-clinching service ace by setter Gyzelle Sy.
"Like we experienced before sa mga games namin. We don't have problems getting leads eh, yung ma-sustain namin ang lead 'yun 'yung kailangan naming i-address pa," said Abella, who was also disappointed with the 31 points they gave away off errors. "Hindi pa ganoon ang mental focus ng mga players. We just need to get back to training on Monday i-address 'yung mental toughness and hopefully maayos namin siya going into the second game."
Game 2 is on Tuesday while Game 3, if needed, is on Thursday.
Soltones finished with 17 points while Bualee had 16 markers for BaliPure. Keddy was limited to only eight markers while Jerrili Malabanan and Risa Sato combined for 14 points for the Lady Warriors.
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