PLDT-Army tussle kicks off PVL Invitationall semifinal

A LONE game pitting PLDT Home Fibr and Army Black Mamba Tuesday ushers in a novel semifinal round featuring six teams all primed for grind-out matches in pursuit of the coveted Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference crown.

Every game counts in this single round robin phase toughened up by the entry of two foreign guest squads where the top two will slug it out for the championship in a winner-take-all setto tipped to go down to the last serve, set or spike.

The High Speed Hitters got the better of the Lady Troopers in their elims face-off, overcoming a first-set setback with a sweep of the next three for a 17-25, 25-11, 25-20, 25-18 victory that helped fuel the team’s drive to the semis.

PLDT tied Cignal HD for second at the end of the eliminations topped by Creamline with Army drawing a big lift from ousted Petro Gazz to snare the last berth in the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.

The Angels played the spoiler’s role as they trounced the Choco Mucho Flying Titans with a three-game sweep at the close of the eliminations Sunday, the kind of finish the latter needed to knock off the Lady Troopers for the last semis ticket via tiebreak.

Army thus will not only be seeking to even things up with PLDT in their 4 p.m. clash at the Filoil EcoOil Center in San Juan but also give Petro Gazz something in return for, in part, helping the Lady Troopers get a free ride to the next round.

But the High Speed Hitters are keen on not giving even an inch to the Lady Troopers but are dead set on scoring a repeat for the needed momentum and boost in a short, cutthroat phase leading to a crack at the championship.

Coach George Pascua has whipped up his crew composed of Mika Reyes, Fiola Ceballos, Jules Samonte, Chin Basas and Dell Palomata into one fighting, cohesive unit ready to take on the best and the brightest, including the fancied Kobe Shinwa side from Japan and the KingWhale 6 from Taiwan.

But with their experience, the Lady Troopers, bannered by Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino, Jeanette Villareal, Mary Anne Esguerra, Joanne Bunag, Jem Gonzales, Angela Nunag ang setter Ivy Perez, are out to prove their worth not just as a challenger but as a serious title contender.

Meanwhile, action in the semifinals heats up on Thursday as Creamline steps up its drive for a second straight championship against Army at 2:30 p.m. and Cignal HD launches its own finals bid against PLDT at 5:30 p.m.

Both games will be played at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, which will also host the Saturday matches pitting Cignal vs Army at 2:30 p.m. and Creamline vs PLDT at 5:30 p.m.

Kobe Shinwa and KingWhale make their debut on August 8 as they slug it out in the 2:30 p.m. opener of an explosive twinbill capped by the grudge match between Creamline and Cignal at the SM MOA Arena.