DOC VOLLEYBALL: Banking on Uniqueness
AJ Pareja on Nov 28, 2018 11:13 AM
Alyssa Valdez of the Creamline Cool Smashers, Paneng Mercado of the PetroGazz Angels, Amanda Villanueva of BanKo Perlas and Deanna Wong of Ateneo-Motolite will all try to lead their respective teams to the PVL Open Conference Finals.In what could be considered as the tightest contention for the crown in PVL Final Four history, the stakes couldn’t be much higher for the four emerging semifinalists for this open conference. Save for the PetroGazz Angels who proved themselves as the penultimate Dark Horse in the league, the other three teams, the Creamline Cool Smashers, BanKo Perlas Spikers and Ateneo-Motolite Lady Eagles, have had their fair share of basking with the top seed throughout the tournament. With all four teams having had either lost or won against each other as the league went on, each team is hard pressed to find what sets them apart from the rest in order to emerge victorious in this four-way battle for the crown.
Creamline Cool Smashers
Currently the reigning queens from the Reinforced Conference, the Creamline Cool Smashers sure have a big target mark on their backs as three hungry contenders attempt to snatch the crown. While the Cool Smashers have powered through the league with expected outputs from Alyssa Valdez, there has still been observable overreliance on the captain when it comes to attack production. As co-analyst Anne Remulla-Canda discussed in our recent The Score guesting, the Cool Smashers can definitely benefit from engaging more attack options from the middles and opposite. While the safety net utilized by Jia Morado on Valdez is still yet to be totally shut down, Creamline can’t take chances on employing the same tried and tested strategy as it wouldn’t take much for strategist coaches like Gerry Yee and Oliver Almadro to set up defenses that can counter the Valdez rampage.
Going by their current numbers, the Cool Smashers inevitably are an offensive team as evidenced by their proficiency in floor defense to set up the attack. The team’s glaring weakness in the blocking department can be attributed to having the least dominant or threatening middles in the league. Should Creamline want to ensure defending the crown, substantial output from the middles especially in blocking should be prioritized. If the attack strategy of the Cool Smashers continues to prove unchecked despite the singularity, enhancing their net defense would prove beneficial in seamless transition to the attack.
BanKo Perlas Spikers
Trying to prove themselves as no longer as just runner-up contenders, the BanKo Perlas Spikers have shown stellar performances in beating heavily-favored teams, but at the same time they have had some hiccups along the way that prevented them from holding on to the top seed spot for long. Save for a 7th place ranking in digging, the Perlas Spikers are consistently in the top three in other skill departments.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of BanKo over the other teams is that they have players who are primed for the position they play. With steady output from the wings care of Dzi Gervacio and Nicole Tiamzon as well as dominant net play from their two middles, Kathy Bersola and Joy Dacoron, the Perlas Spikers have a good mix of both firepower and defense over the net.
What makes the Perlas Spikers a curious case is the unorthodox strategy employed by their opposite, captain Sue Roces. Up front at the net, her signature slide attack has been a consistent source of points from the right wing given a good set-up. A good way to further exploit this unique set-up is to have the 1st middle (Dacoron) go for a short slide while Roces goes for a long slide reminiscent of the unique play the Chinese Women’s National Team introduced in the 2004 Olympics. The downside of the set-up occurs when Roces goes to the back row where her lack of attack from the right back row leaves the right side of the court barren of any attack option for Jem Ferrer or Fhen Emnas. In addition, Roces’ passing from the back has proven detrimental for BanKo rather than beneficial as it is not her natural element to pass more so being an opposite. A workaround perhaps would be to first, commit the two left hitters as dedicated passers alongside the libero and have Amanda Villanueva sub in for Roces at the back just to have a right back row hitter as another option.
Ateneo-Motolite Lady Eagles
Being one of the youngest teams in the league surely was not a hindrance for the Lady Eagles to go the distance in their inaugural league under the helm of new head coach Oliver Almadro. Speaking from experience, it is quintessential of Almadro to develop a young team heavily focused on service, block, and passing although the latter is yet to be seen from his new squad. What sets the Lady Eagles apart from their veteran counterparts is that they don’t rely solely on the left wing to deliver the most number of attack output in every match. Inarguably, the most threatening presence in upfront for the Lady Eagles have been the triple tower combo of Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, and Kat Tolentino. Should the Lady Eagles finally have an answer to Gervacio and crew, it would be in making sure that Tolentino’s block is matched up with Gervacio, particulary with the timing as the latter has the ability to read the block in mid-air very well.
On the other hand, being dead last in the passing department has been the sole limiting factor for Ateneo-Motolite to exploit their main arsenal (i.e. their middles) into dominating the league. While Almadro has proven himself to be an exceptional floor passing and defense mentor in the numerous men’s teams he has handled in the past, it has yet to be exhibited by his new team. In particular would be Madayag’s exceptional body coordination and efficiency with the slide that has yet to be seen run by Deanna Wong on a consistent basis for side out play.
Almadro undoubtedly has the passing formation and strategy planned out, but the individual biomechanics need time to hone. Though the Lady Eagles are undoubtedly the crowd favorites thanks to their ever supportive fan base, the evident lack of polished biomechanics in the passing department has been their limiting factor and it would still take time before it is fully developed to maximize their attack strategy.
Though behind by quite a margin in terms of the win-loss stats, the Petr Gazz Angels are not the usual 4th place fillers for the semi-finals. Boasting of wins over the top 3 teams at some point during the eliminations, the Angels have earned the very much deserved “Dark Horse” title as they can pose significant threat to the other teams vying for the crown. With a good mix of veterans and young players, the Angels have shown a good sense of team balance that can be deadly to underestimate when they play at their best.
With the noticeable improvement in the connection of middle player Cherry Nunag and setter Chie Saet, much of the attack burden has been eased off by consistent producers Jonah Sabete and Paneng Mercado. In addition, save for Saet, who can still give the young setters a run for their stats, most of the individual players of PetroGazz are not standing out the most in each skill department be it attack or defense, but it works for them being a team that finds strength in balance. Though lacking a perennial ace player compared to their counterparts, the Angels find their advantage in employing a collective effort as evidenced by the interchange of production from middle, open, and opposite occasionally.
Perhaps their best chances against Creamline Cool Smashers in their upcoming playoff would be more output from the middle counterpart of Nunag as well as employing pipe attacks which Sabete, Mercado, and Saet are more than capable to execute just to add more firepower into the fray.