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Battle royale for crown

There couldn’t be a more fitting final match-up than pitting the two most popular teams in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Reinforced Conference. And Pocari Sweat and Customs hope to live up to the hype and provide the kind of duel fans expect them to dish out when they slug it out in Game One at the Philsports Arena in Pasig tomorrow.

The Transformers leaned on Thai Kanjana Kuthaisong and Alyssa Valdez to knock off the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders in their Game 3 clash for the other finals berth, pulling off a thriller of a five-setter, 25-21, 25-16, 24-26, 8-25, 15-8, late Wednesday.

But for Customs, making it to the finals on its very first try is one thing. Winning it all is another, particularly against a tested, champion team like Pocari.

“We’re the underdogs,” said Customs coach Sherwin Meneses after steering the Transformers to the come-from-behind win over the Water Defenders. “For us to beat them (Lady Warriors), we have to play solid in reception and blocking.”

Heading to the finals, Customs is No. 5 in reception, although a rung higher than Pocari but the Transformers lag in blocking, also at No. 5 with the Lady Warriors lording it over the eight-team field with 2.03 per set.

But in a duel of stars, focus will be on offense with Valdez, second to BaliPure import Katherine Morrell in scoring with a 19.7 norm, and No. 3 Breanna Mackie of Pocari, who packs a 21-hit average, tipped to load up more in their upcoming title showdown.

Valdez and Mackie also boast of a slew of talented backups with the former to count on Thai reinforcements hitter Kanjana Kuthaisong and setter Natthanicha Jaisaen and locals Rose Marie Vargas, Pau Soriano, Lilet Mabbayad and libero Jonalyn Ibisa.

But Pocari Sweat, seeking a second straight championship after ruling the Open Conference early in the season, appears to have the edge in firepower with Mackie leading the league in spiking with a 39.90 percent success, and Myla Pablo, Michelle Gumabao, import Kay Kacsits among the league’s top 20 scorers. Mackie is also No. 2 in blocking, next to UST’s Ria Meneses with Kacsits at No. 4 while libero Melissa Gohing is also the No. 1 in digging.

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