Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, November 4, 2016

V-League Reinforced Conference semi-finals preview

V-League semi-finals preview
by rick olivares

The knockout rounds of the Reinforced Conference of the 13th season of the Shakey’s V-League is upon us.

And it’s going to be a pair of explosive best-of-three match-ups that will start serving this Saturday, November 5, at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

BaliPure vs. Bureau of Customs 4pm
This match up will come down to which team is more steady and which bench can contribute more.

Both teams, though veteran-laden, have shorter rotations than Pocari or UST, the other squads in the semis. So the squad with more players contributing to the overall effort will win. And play very good defense.

The only consistent players for BaliPure have been setter Kaylee Manns, spiker Kate Morrell, and libero Denden Lazaro. Sue Roces has come around of late. Ditto with Sasa Devanadera (although the connection between her and Manns isn’t there yet). Amy Ahomiro is another weapon they have but she has to really provide those points from the middle to open up the game for Morrell and Dzi Gervacio who has regained her college form (although is suspect defensively). Charo Soriano played well in their final assignment of the prelims against Coast Guard.

Head coach Tai Bundit will need more of that from Soriano to provide more scoring sock. Especially if Mae Tajima can hit that ball as opposed to just tapping it, it will cause BOC massive problems.

BaliPure has concerns on both ends of the court. They have opportunities to hit but more oft than not, opposing teams return the ball to them. The term I the vernacular is, Hindi ma-baon yung bola.”

Furthermore, even with the presence of Lazaro who has regained her excellent form during her college playing days, the defense is spotty and inconsistent. As it is, because of the presence of Morrell and Manns, BaliPure has better net defense. But again, Roces and Devanadera have started to play better. Let’s see if they can elevate their game (and if Bundit gives Sasa playing time).

The BOC Transformers have blown hot and cold throughout the tournament. Their only losses came from Pocari and BaliPure in shocking three-set sweeps. One of their big wins early on was against UST that was on a win streak.
Plus, their floor defense has been rather spotty.

I think that what has made BOC somewhat vulnerable is setter Nic Jaisaen who has not gotten other players in the flow. Am speaking of Rizza Mandapat and Pau Soriano who were factors in BOC’s early two match win streak when the Transformers were without their Thai players. While Kanjana Kuthaisong is a significant upgrade on the open or utility position, the lack of combination plays hurts this team from achieving their potential.

Once in a while, it’s all right for Alyssa Valdez to carry the team but this isn’t always the case in club volleyball that is vastly different from collegiate sports. People say there is a lack of talent in the Transformers teams. I beg to differ. I feel that Menchie Tubiera is vastly underused. And that is an understatement. Ditto for Jonah Corpuz who can help on both ends.

But I stand by my thoughts – the team with more players coming to the fore will win this match up.

Pocari Sweat vs. UST 6pm.
To put it quite honestly, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors four-set win over the UST Golden Tigresses to end the preliminary round will give the former the psychological advantage.


As impressive as UST was at the start of the conference when they played great defense and displayed even more dynamic offense (with the ascent of Carla Sandoval and the excellent back-up play of setter Alina Bicar), UST needs to show that mental fortitude on a consistent basis. When they get down, they tend to stay down.

UST needs a strong start and to win the first set to get their confidence going.

Even with no import, what Kungfu Reyes has going for him is a veteran line-up that has played together for a while now. Furthermore, they have a very deep bench. Reyes can call upon his entire team to contribute.

They are good in spite of lacking guest players. So in my opinion, it’s all mental now.

And they will need that against the Lady Warriors who are on a roll. That first game loss to Philippine Air Force can be chalked up to chemistry. Since then, they have walloped the competition.

They are the best offensive and defensive team. They have a bunch of players who you can rely on to score – Breanna Mackie, Myla Pablo, Michelle Gumabao, Elaine Kasilag, and to an extent Shishi Dadang. If middle hitter Andrea Kacsits plays the way she did versus UST in their last assignment of the preliminaries, that’s another weapon for head coach Rommel Abella. However, Pocari’s offense though runs a lot through the 6’3” Mackie who when she takes to the air is hard to stop. No team hits that ball harder than the Lady Warriors.

On defense, they’ve got the reliable and fantastic Melissa Gohing, Gumabao, Iris Tolenada, and Mackie for those digs. Gohing allows Pocari to get into its high powered offense but it is Tolenada who throws herself all over the court for seemingly impossible saves and digs to keep the ball in play.

Speaking of net defense, that is quite a stratospheric frontline that Abella can call upon – Mackie, Kacsits, Gumabao, Dadang, Pablo, Kasilag, and Dadang. And speaking of D, no other setter in the V-League has more floor burns than Tolenada who also plays great net defense.

If UST is able to reach deep and summon that mental fortitude to battle Pocari point for point, set for set, they have a chance.

If Pocari can break UST’s defense early and have the Golden Tigresses on the defensive, this match-up will go their way.

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