MANILA -- Petro Gazz coach Oliver Almadro felt confident that his gamble would pay off when he called for a challenge in the midst of what turned out to be the final rally of Game 1 of the PVL All-Filipino Conference finals.
With the Gazz Angels at match point, 25-24, Almadro challenged for a net violation against the Creamline Cool Smashers.
His gambit paid off: the video review showed that Creamline setter Jia De Guzman grazed the net, giving Petro Gazz the final point in their 25-22, 24-26, 25-23, 26-24 triumph over the Cool Smashers. While it may have made for an anticlimactic ending, it was one that the Gazz Angels embraced.
"I called it. Yes, and I called it right away, it's a challenge," Almadro told reporters after his team took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 finals series.
"Wala namang mawawala eh. Then I trusted the Lord na lang na talagang net. So 'yun 'yung vision," he added. "I know my players worked hard for that attack, and hindi ako papayag na hindi 'yun puntos kasi pinaghirapan niya 'yun. So ibig sabihin, alam ko, no matter what, it's a point."
"Naging confident ako to take that challenge, and indeed, pinagbigyan naman kami."
The successful challenge capped a sensational Game 1 effort for the Gazz Angels, who matched Creamline blow for blow and weathered their fightback led by Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza. It marked the end of the Cool Smashers' 14-game winning streak over Petro Gazz.
But on the brink of winning the 2023 All-Filipino crown, Almadro wants his players to stay focused and be more in control of their fate inside the court.
"Baka mangyari ulit 'yun," he pointed out. "At dapat, hindi kami magre-rely sa challenge."
Game 2 is on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena, with Petro Gazz looking to secure back-to-back championships after also ruling the 2022 Reinforced Conference in December. The Gazz Angels have yet to win the All-Filipino tournament, twice emerging runners-up to Creamline in 2019 and 2022.
"We just have to do our job, we just have to prepare, and we have to manage ourselves not to be overwhelmed. Not too frustrated, not too overwhelmed," Almadro stressed. "Hindi pa tapos 'yung series. So sabi nga nila, pinakamahirap to get the series."