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PVL: Do-or-die time as Bali Pure, Pocari dispute Reinforced Conference crown

Pocari’s Myla Pablo (18) hopes to overcome Jennifer Keddy and Bali Pure in Game 3 on Thursday. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – Pocari Sweat and Bali Pure face off for the third consecutive time on Thursday night, with the winner walking away as champion of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference at FilOil Flying V Centre.

Action shifts back to the San Juan venue at 6 p.m., with both teams bracing for more of the back-and-forth action that has defined the first two games of the best-of-3 title series.

The Lady Warriors, the last winners of the Reinforced Conference under the old V-League brand, hacked out a 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24 win in Game 1 last Saturday, only for the Water Defenders to outlast them in a gritty five-set battle, 25-15, 26-24, 24-26, 24-26, 15-13, last Tuesday to force a Game 3.

Pocari is trying to add to its collection of two titles in the club league — it also won the last V-League Open Conference crown — while Bali Pure is gunning for its first championship.

The Water Defenders hope to display the same poise that brought them victory in Game 2, when they leaned on a clutch spike by Grethcel Soltones to finally beat the Lady Warriors.

“We have a tendency to struggle closing out a set,” acknowledged Bali Pure coach Roger Gorayeb. “We’re up by two sets in Game 2, and we lost the third and fourth. In the fifth, I was at a loss as to what should be done. It was tough.”

Game 3 will feature another duel between two pairs of powerful imports, with Pocari’s Michelle Strizak and Krystal Rivers going up against Bali Pure’s towering Jennifer Keddy and veteran Jang Bualee.

Playing in only her second game, Rivers scored 26 points, all off spikes, including four of Pocari’s seven-hit binge that put the Lady Warriors on top, 9-6, in the fifth set.

But the former Alabama standout scored just one more point the rest of the way, and was foiled by Keddy in the final stretch to push the Water Defenders to victory.

Rivers is expected to step up anew in Game 3 along with Strizak, as they slug it out against Bualee and Keddy. The Bali Pure imports combined for 40 points in Game 2, with Keddy also anchoring their team’s net defense with six blocks.

Focus will also be on the locals with Pocari’s Myla Pablo, Jessey de Leon, Jeanette Panaga, Cai Nepomuceno and Desiree Dadang hoping to hold their own against Bali Pure’s Soltones, Risa Sato, Jerrili Malabanan, Aiko Urdas and Macy Mendiola.

Jasmine Nabor of Bali Pure rebounded from a so-so Game One performance with a 49-excellent set effort in Game Two, eight more than her Pocari counterpart Gyzelle Sy, with the two aces also bracing for a playmaking duel along with their respective liberos Melissa Gohing (Pocari) and Tatan Pantone (BaliPure).

The match will be aired live on S+A Channel 23 and can be viewed via livestream on www.sports.abs-cbn/com/livestream/pvl.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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