Action heats up as the four remaining teams clash for the elusive finals slots in the sudden-death semifinals of the Chooks to Go- Philippine Superliga Invitational Conference Saturday at the Muntinlupa Sports Center in Muntinlupa City.
Cignal, the lone unbeaten side, seeks to return to the finals as it battles dangerous F2 Logistics at 6 p.m. while Grand Prix champion Petron takes on overachieving Smart-Army at 4 p.m. in the other semifinal pairing of this prestigious club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu, UCPB Gen and SOGO Hotel with ESPN5, Hyper HD and Aksyon TV as broadcast partners.
The winners will advance to the best-of-three titular series starting Thursday next week at the FilOil Flying V Centre while the losers will clash in a one-game battle for bronze.
Meanwhile, Sta. Lucia and Generika-Ayala, who are licking the wounds of their respective defeats in the quarterfinals, battle for fifth place finish in the 2 p.m. appetizer of this tourney that also has Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Mueller and Grand Sport as technical sponsors.
Smart-Army booked the last semis ticket after surviving Generika-Ayala in straight sets, 25-19, 25-22, 25-21, in a knockout quarterfinal showdown late Thursday.
Giga Hitters head coach Kungfu Reyes said they are dedicating their amazing run to Army veterans led by Ging Balse-Pabayo, Joanne Bunag and Nene Bautista.
“We’re happy for our Army players like Ging, Joanne and Nene,” said Reyes, who steered RC Cola-Army to the Invitational crown two years ago against Est Cola of Thailand.
“This is their reward for their relentless performance and showing that they can still play at a higher level even if they are up against younger stars.”
“We’re up against a strong team like Petron and this is a perfect opportunity for us to overachieve again.”
The Blaze Spikers, on the other hand, are seeking to sustain their momentum in this venue, where they dominated erstwhile-unbeaten F2 Logistics, 25-16, 21-25, 25-20, 26-24, to steal the outright semifinal berth in Pool A.
Petron head coach Shaq Delos Santos hopes that their one-week rest would be an advantage for his wards led by skipper Ces Molina, Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Bernadeth Pons, Sisi Rondina and Rhea Dimaculangan.
“We had a great feeling after getting the outright semis. We had a good rest and we had enough time to prepare. But we have to work harder this time as only one loss would send us out,” Delos Santos said.
All eyes will also be on the Cignal-F2 Logistics showdown.
Resurgent superstar Rachel Anne Daquis has been a major main factor in the four-game run of the HD Spikers, who were surprisingly on top despite losing majority of their core in last year’s Invitational co-championship run with Japan’s Kobe Shinwa University.
She will be tested against a powerhouse F2 Logistics squad that has Aby Marano, Kianna Dy, Kim Fajardo and Dawn Macandili at the helm.
“This semifinals is the most important match for us. We need to work together this time because this is our path in reaching our goal in making it to the Finals again,” said Cignal Head Coach Edgar Barroga, who will lean on Mylene Paat, Mumay Vivas, Janine Navarro, setter Acy Masangkay and libero Jheck Dionela.