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Lady Troopers thwart Stags, cop V-League crown

Philippine Army sustained a scoring spurt linking the last two sets to subdue San Sebastian College in a thrilling five-setter, 27-25, 20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-10, and capture the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference crown before a big Thursday crowd at The Arena in San Juan last night.

Sisters Michelle and Marietta Carolino took charge in the decider along with Mary Jean Balse as the Lady Troopers won six of the first seven points to wrest control then fended off the Lady Stags’ fightback to pull off the come-from-behind win and the sweep of their best-of-three series for the league’s first “Open” championship that saw the participation of three military teams and one commercial squad.

“Hindi ko inaasahan na mananalo kami dito kahit na halos national team members ang mga players ko kasi may malalakas na import ang kalaban. Pero hindi rin ako nahirapan sa pagko-coach sa mga players ko; yung mga mali na lang nila ang ini-improve namin,” said Army coach Rico de Guzman in the din of the Troopers celebration at center court.

Army, which swept SSC, 25-9, 25-20, 25-16, in the series opener Sunday, re-displayed its awesome firepower with five players churning out double-digit scores with Rachel Ann Daquis leading the attack with 20 hits, marked by eight service aces, including five in the fourth. She went on to win the finals MVP honors.

Balse, a former MVP, fired 19 points while Marietta Carolino, Michelle Carolino, another former MVP, and Joanne Buñag added 15, 11 and 10 hits, respectively.

It was a sorry loss for the Lady Stags, who recovered from a close first set setback by winning the next two in a duel of endgame runs, only to lose the next two.

Thai Jang Baulee and American Lauren Ford, the conference’s top scorer and MVP, combined for a whopping 55-point output and Joy Benito added 13 hits for the Lady Stags, who outhit the Troopers, 67-59.

Earlier, Ateneo pulled off another five-setter, 14-25, 25-20. 25-18, 19-25, 15-10, over Navy to clinch third place honors in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and Sports Vision.
The Lady Eagles saved their best for last, winning six of the last seven points in the decider to win the thrilling one-hour, 54-minute encounter and sweep their own playoff in the league backed by Accel, Mikasa and Maynilad Water.

The Troopers, who snatched the first set but yielded the next two, broke out from a 21-all game in the fourth by racking up three straight points then frustrated the Stags, who came within 23-24 only to lose the next point and the set.

Army kept the momentum of that endgame blitz by taking the first four points in the fifth, dropped the next but won the next two to go 6-1 up. They held sway from there, whisking off SSC’s comebacks, 4-6, 6-9, before winning four of the next five points, capped by a Balse attack for a 13-7 lead.

SSC won the next three points as Baulee made a hit and the Stags scored off the block but a service error by Jill Gustillo gave the Troopers the match point before

The Troopers rallied from 16-21 down in the opening frame by taking nine of the next 13 points to force a tie then won two straight points to steal the set.

But the Lady Stags, behind Baulee’s eight-point output and Benito’s three points, drew level with a fiery windup in the second frame that saw them score five straight points to turn an 18-19 deficit into a 23-19 lead. They yielded the next point but won the next two.

SSC also trailed 15-18 in the third but Baulee, Benito and Ford combined to rally the Stags from 17-22 to victory by sweeping the next eight points.

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