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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

On Game 1 between Pocari Sweat & BaliPure: A Game of Nerves and Presence

A Game of Nerves and Presence
by rick olivares

The Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors showed their championship mettle when they came back from losing the opening set to take down upstart BaliPure in four yesterday (22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24).

In the first set, Pocari’s guest player Krystal Rivers struggled to get her timing right in her attacks; no doubt, a result of her lay-off while waiting for her International Transfer Certificate to be processed. Gigil comes to mind. Rivers was sent to the bench for a while to get her bearings. Come the second set, she found her groove and the result was a devastating 20 points as Rivers led Pocari to a huge victory.

Rivers’ presence tilted the balance of power in the game. Fans eagerly waited for the sets to come her way in anticipation of those booming spikes that gave BaliPure virtually not much of a chance in receiving. Her elevation made the spikes even more spectacular.

However, I also thought that the lack of mental toughness by BaliPure’s players also made the difference. I do not believe it is championship experience. It is a factor but it isn’t the main factor. To wit, when the Ateneo Blue Eagles defeated the La Salle Green Archers for the 2008 UAAP Men’s Basketball title, they went through the defending champions. When the National University Bulldogs won the UAAP title in 2014, they won it with a crew that was devoid of many of their stars who graduated the previous season. And prior to that, they didn’t make the UAAP Finals. They did make it to back-to-back Final Four appearances but still.

Hunger, motivation, and desire counts for a lot (although they aren’t the only factors).

Open spiker Gretchel Soltones has played in many championship matches in both the NCAA, the V-League, or even the Philippine SuperLiga yet she figured again in crucial errors. Risa Sato has previously played for Ateneo (as a guest player in the V-League) and with National University in the past UAAP season. It might be seen as a lack of maturity but like her other Lady Bulldogs teammates in the UAAP, they aren’t exactly newbies. They have been around the block.  

The blocking was somewhat non-existent and the attacking even more mollifying with terrible decisions made. Of course, one must make split second decisions which are part of the game. However, after you commit one mistake, you must rectify it. To commit them time and again could be several things – a lack of focus and understanding, nerves?

Sato was absent. In fact, I wanted to check the roster if she was indeed in uniform. The stat sheet says she scored seven points that she scattered across four sets. But this is the second time in three matches where became BaliPure’s version of the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman.

American import Jennifer Keddy was massive in the last few matches but didn’t fare well in this match.

In contrast, all of Pocari’s main players showed up – Myla Pablo, Melissa Gohing, Michelle Strizak, Jeannette Panaga, Desiree Dadang etc.

With two vital cogs unable to get going, Soltones had a tougher time.

BaliPure came back in the fourth set after being down by eight points. They even took the lead at 24-22. However, they never sent the match to a fifth set as they crumbled.

Perhaps that is the best word to sum up the Purest Water Defenders’ game one – “crumbled.”

I thought that they got worried about Rivers. BaliPure head coach told his team not to worry about her power. “You stopped Kuttika,” said Gorayeb after BaliPure’s masterful conquest of the Creamline Cool Smashers. And I agree. Kuttika is a much better player on both ends of the court.

Even when they took the first set, the Purest Water Defenders looked tight. I’d say that’s nerves. Not the lack of experience.

Before the match started, I sat next to old friend Clint Malazo who once worked with the Ateneo Lady Eagles and is now with San Sebastian. Said Malazo, “paramihan to ng errors. Ang pinaka marami ay yung matatalo.”

I responded, “Yes, but for me, it is a game of nerves.”

BaliPure was able to get 31 points off Pocari’s errors while conversely, the Lady Warriors only won 21 error points off the Purest Water Defenders.

Nerves. It’s all going to come down to it for the championship. And who decides to show up.

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