MANILA, Philippines – Katherine Bell made a strong first impression as she powered Petron to a 25-18, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 triumph over Cocolife in Game 1 of their Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix best-of-3 semifinals series on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Coming in as a late replacement for the injured Hillary Hurley, Bell was impressive in the attack zone to give Petron the early lead in their semis showdown.
Bell, a versatile 25-year-old spiker who played NCAA Division 1 volleyball at the University of Texas, finished with 29 points built on 27 kills and two blocks to lead the Blaze Spikers, who are looking to redeem themselves after falling short in the Grand Prix finals last year.
Former MVP Lindsay Stalzer contributed 19 kills, two aces, and two blocks for 23 hits.
"I'm just giving my all," said Bell. "I'm fighting fatigue, but I'm giving my all for my team and helping them in the semifinal."
Petron coach Shaq delos Santos is hopeful that they have learned their lessons from last year's Grand Prix heartbreak.
"We don't want it to happen (again)," said delos Santos. "Despite this win, we will still work hard and polish our lapses in our game."
The coach was pleased that their gamble in bringing in Bell appears to be paying off.
"She just arrived last week, and has been with us for only nine days," said delos Santos. "We're so lucky that the schedule was adjusted… Anyway, it wasn't a major adjustment. She's very jolly and easy to get along with."
After cruising to a first set win, the Blaze Spikers found themselves in trouble as Serbians Sara Klisura and Marta Drpa rallied the Asset Managers to a 21-17 lead in the second set.
Petron managed to tie the count at 21, before Klisura's kill and an ace from Jane Gonzales helped Cocolife tie the match.
"We were relaxed in the second set," delos Santos admitted. "Good thing, we managed to recover in the third set. We will study all our lapses in the second set and improve it next game, especially our passing and reception."
The Asset Managers were close to forcing a deciding frame, as an ace by Drpa cut the deficit to one point, 24-23.
But the Blaze Spikers held on for the win as Rhea Dimaculangan made the most of an over-reception in their next rally, pushing the ball past the outstretched arms of Klisura.
Drpa tallied 26 points, while Klisura had 18 for Cocolife.
Game 2 of the semifinals series is on Thursday.
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