Asaka Tamaru Asaka has been consistent for Japan’s Kurashiki in the PVL Invitational Conference semifinals. PVL photo

Japan tackles PLDT

July 26, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 367 views

KURASHIKI, with its destiny of reaching the Final in full control, faces PLDT in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference semifinals at the Philsports Arena today.

The first of two chances to secure the remaining championship berth, the unbeaten Ablaze hope to get the job done in the 4 p.m. duel with the High Speed Hitters.

Creamline, which has a 4-0 semifinals record, has booked a place in the one-game final on Sunday.

Kurashiki has been impressive so far on offense and defense, as the Japanese third division side has not yet tasted defeat in three matches.

Sporting a 2-2 record, PLDT is pulling out all the stops to make it an all-Filipino finale as it will enter the match oozing with confidence after back-to-back straight-set victories.

But even if they do hurdle the Ablaze, as much as possible in convincing fashion, the High Speed Hitters would still need to hope the Japanese club would drop their last semis match to the Cool Smashers by at least three or four sets at the close of the semis phase tomorrow to advance.

In the first tiebreaker, Kurashiki currently has nine points while PLDT has six.

Ablaze coach Hideo Suzuki is wary of the High Speed Hitters height, especially with middle blockers Dell Palomata and Mika Reyes.

“Like F2 Logistics, PLDT is a tall team. But we will do our best, particularly in receive,” said Suzuki, after steering the team past the Cargo Movers, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20, last Tuesday, through an interpreter.

Having seen the High Speed Hitters play, Akane Hiraoka, who took the game’s top honors with a nine-point effort, knows what the team can offer.

“PLDT has tall players, we have to focus on defense and receive and we shouldn’t be discouraged,” said Akane.

Tamaru Asaka continued to lead Kurashiki in scoring, while Ohshima Kyoka has been on point in distributing plays for the team.

Creamline bagged its second straight championship appearance with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-17 win over Vietnam’s Kinh Bac Bac Ninh.

Coach Rald Ricafort, on the other hand, said the High Speed Hitters are not actually after the result but the chance to play an efficient team like the Ablaze.

“We’re happy to have built momentum (after beating Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh). We prepared against the Japanese at yung pag-manage na lang para maka-peak sa dulo,” said Ricafort.

“But it’s more on the challenge to play a Japanese team. Hindi na namin hawak ang (finals) chances namin, so we’ll focus on the opportunity to play a strong, quick team like Kurashiki and gain experience. Basta, gagalingan namin at bahala na kung saan kami dadalhin,” he added.

PLDT libero Kath Arado is looking forward for her match-up with counterpart Takahashi Kaoru.

“We’re all excited to play a disciplined Japanese squad. Mate-test din namin ang kakayahan namin, kung nasaan na ba ang laro namin at this stage. It’s more than the result and we know the coaching staff will be there to guide us,” said Arado.

Fiola Ceballos, who has become one of the High Speed Hitters’ main offensive weapons in the conference as Jovie Prado went down with a knee injury, has emphasized the need for patience and composure, saying: “Mabibilis silang pumalo at sa depensa, so super importante and patience.”

Meanwhile, Cignal, toting a 1-3 slate, and Kinh Bac-Bac Ninh, winless in three games, tangle at 6:30 p.m. with both teams trying to stay in the battle for the bronze.