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RC Cola-Army survived a furious fightback by Generika, 25-20, 25-19, 25-19, in the playoffs last night of the Asics Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Import Hailie Ripley finally showed up as she delivered crucial hits that bailed the Lady Troopers out of trouble to book a sudden-death duel with topseed Foton in the semifinals of this prestigious women’s volleyball tournament bankrolled by Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller and Grand Sport with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
On the other hand, the other semifinal pairing in this tourney that also has Focus Athletics, KLab Cyscorpions, Foton, Petron and F2 Logistics as sponsors pits second seed Petron against the winner between F2 Logistics and Cignal in a battle that is still being played at press time.
Semifinal matches are set next Saturday at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation in Legazpi City.
After a lethargic performance in their previous encounter, Ripley finally caught fire, delivering 10 kills and a pair of blocks for 12 points while skipper Jovelyn Gonzaga tallied a game-high 13 points for the Lady Troopers, who are tipped to make an impact in the semifinals due to their deep well of experience.
Kierra Holst also exploded with 11 points while Honey Royse Tubino punched in nine hits.
RC Cola-Army assistant coach Rico de Guzman, who subbed for head coach Kungfu Reyes, admitted that they paid special attention on the development of Ripley and Holst.
“We don’t have problem on offense. Our problem is the footwork of our imports as well as our blocking and reception. So, we focused on those areas,” said de Guzman, the genius who guided the Lady Troopers to three straight titles in the league’s inaugural season.
True enough, Ripley’s progress was very obvious, especially in the third set when the Lifesavers crawled back from a 10-19 deficit to make it 18-23.
Ripley delivered a kill for the match point followed by a beautiful running attack off a set up by Sarah Jane Gonzales to formally send RC Cola-Army back to the semis.
Polina Liutikova registered 10 hits while Ria Meneses and Darlene Ramdin tallied nine markers apiece for the Lifesavers, who were relegated to the battle for 5th to 6th places against the loser in the F2 Logistics-Cignal encounter.