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, June 9, 2017

BaliPure’s stunning PVL run

BaliPure’s stunning PVL run
by rick olivares

The end came as stunning as the result.

After an Alyssa Valdez serve, BaliPure open hitter Grethcel Soltones received the ball and sent it towards setter Jasmine Nabor. In one swift motion, she dumped the ball into an open spot that caught Jema Galanza and Laura Schaudt by surprise. Then BaliPure erupted into a crazy on court celebration.

It was a stunning three-set sweep of Creamline (25-18, 25-13, 25-16) by BaliPure, a team that wasn’t figured to be a contender for the inaugural Premier Volleyball League championship, the Reinforced Conference.

The Purest Water Defenders put on a stunning clinic on volleyball. They whipped ball around like crazy and sending the Cool Smashers’ defense scrambling. Lizlee Ann Pantone showed why she is one of the premier liberos in the country as she oft frustrated Valdez, Schaudt, and powerhouse import Kuttika Kaewpin by backstopping the defense. BaliPure won all the long rallies with a dogged resolve to dig, dive, and block until they got off a good shot. And they got huge contributions from all seven players sent in by head coach Roger Gorayeb.

After the five-set loss to Creamline last June 6, a match that BaliPure should have won but they stepped off the gas pedal allowing the Cool Smashers some breathing room, the team sat inside the locker room of the antiquated Philsports Arena and mulled the quandary they were in.

“We knew that we the players were at fault,” admitted Soltones. “We should have not relaxed.”

More than giving Creamline life and sending the series into an unpredictable game three where anything can happen, there were concerns if BaliPure can shrug off the inconsistency in which plagued them during games. They looked really good in their Game One demolition of Creamline. Looked good in the early goings of Game Two but alternating between won sets, saw their intensity level cool down.

Before Game Three though…

“Don’t worry,” promised guest player Jang Bualee is winding up her long and great career playing in Thailand and in the Philippines. “We will get the game in three sets.”

“It’s all right here now,” pointed Keddy to her head by way of saying the team is mentally ready for the challenge.

Prior to the start of the semi-finals series with Creamline, the team was worried about Kuttika. “Their advantage was like having two Alyssa Valdezes or two Kuttikas,” said Gorayeb on the eve of their series. “Then they have a middle hitter in Pau Soriano and Schaudt. As good as they were offensively, we felt we had a chance by exploiting their weakness at reception.”
While the move of Cesca Racraquin from her normal open spiker position at San Beda to the libero position by Creamline coach Anusorn Bundit has been a move of genius (she finished second behind Pocari’s Melissa Gohing in receptions), the Purest Water Defenders still wanted to pressure her and Valdez in the backline.

BaliPure renewed their commitment to their floor and net defense frustrating Creamline’s galaxy of stars.

Midway through the second set, the predominantly pro-Creamline crowd fell silent as BaliPure never let up. Come the third set, it was obvious in their body language that the end was coming sooner than later.

With every defensive stop and with every point, BaliPure’s confidence grew. And even while 10 points away from clinching the match, their fans who filled up western end of the Philsports Arena began to chant, “Finals na! Finals na!”

And following Nabor’s daring drop shot to clinch the series and be the first squad to enter the finals (a showdown with favored defending champion Pocari Sweat), BaliPure had flipped the script.

Wherever they finish, they will have bettered last season’s two third place finishes. If you think that should be the logical progression it is actually not.

But that is a story for another time.

Where they are now is a stunning a story as there is ever one.

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