Experience is major factor in Air Force fending off Laoag in semis

With Air Force almost squandering a 2-set lead, coach Jasper Jimenez heaved a sigh of relief when the Jet Spikers finally finished off relentless Laoag in the 13th Shakey’s V-League Open Conference semifinals. 

“Syempre masaya kami, lahat naman ng team yun yung hinahangad na makarating sa Finals. Eto siguro mas pagbubutihan pa namin. Mas maraming usap, brainstorming, mas maraming teamwork na gagawin,” said the youthful coach after his team pulled off the 5-set triumph.

Handily taking the first 2 frames, Air Force suddenly was on the trailing end as the Power Smashers made their move.

The Jet Spikers’ veteran smarts, however, proved to be very important down the stretch as old hands like Wendy Semana, Judy Caballejo, May Ann Pantino and Joy Cases conspired to shut the doors on Laoag.

Jimenez is thankful his squad was armed with experience to survive such situation.

“Talagang malaking bagay yung experience na yun,” he said. “Yung service namin talagang inimprove nila nung fifth set na yun. Kinapitan nung mga veterans kaya nung nakuhaan kami ng dalawang set, nag step-up sila.”

“Kailangan mag step-up pa yung buong team. Nawawala minsan e. Syempre natural yun na may kasamang pressure, abnormal pag wala yung pressure. Kaso namamanage naman kasi beterano yung mga player ko,” he added.

With Air Force now in the finals, they await the winner of the tight Pocari Sweat-Bali Pure pairing — a series that has been pushed to Game 3 on Monday.

Jimenez knows the Jet Spikers will be the underdogs in public, but he nonetheless chooses to focus on what his team can do in the Last Dance.

“Sila talaga malakas. Competitive teams yan,” he emphasized. “Ganun parin yung routine namin, mas dadagdagan namin. Kahit sino makapasok sakanila. Bilog ang bola di mo alam.”

Working to Air Force’s favor is the long rest that they will have, as the finals won’t begin until July 13 at the Philsports Arena.

That means at least 10 days off competition for the weary Jet Spikers, something Jimenez plans to use to keep his players physically and mentally in shape.

“Siguro mas lalong magpupursige pa kung ano yung mga dapat i-improve,” he said. “Yung double time, mas do-double time pa kami. Andito na kami e. Kailangan ibigay na namin yung best namin.” — By Joyce Palad