MANILA, Philippines – Exorcising the ghosts of the past will be Petron's primary objective when it clashes with F2 Logistics in the finals of the Chooks-to-Go Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix starting on Tuesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
According to Petron coach Shaq delos Santos, the Blaze Spikers are motivated by their huge meltdown against the Cargo Movers in the finals of last year's Grand Prix, when they seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series only to lose the next two games.
It could have been Petron's first Grand Prix title since ruling the tournament in 2014 behind American import Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian setter Erica Adachi.
"We will do everything to prepare for our finals rematch with F2 Logistics," said Petron coach Shaq delos Santos following their triumph over Cocolife in the semifinals.
"F2 is a very talented team," he noted. "It is a strong and aggressive team. The big challenge for us is what happened last year when we lost to them in the finals. This is a new opportunity and we’re accepting this challenge to, hopefully, win the title."
Plenty has changed since F2 Logistics overcame Petron in the finals last year, however.
The Cargo Movers are playing without De La Salle University standouts Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron, Desiree Cheng and Dawn Macandili, as well as head coach Ramil de Jesus as they are all spearheading the Lady Spikers' title defense in the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament.
For the Blaze Spikers, a major piece of their championship puzzle is gone as well, as American import Hillary Hurley had to leave with a recurring ankle injury.
Nevertheless, delos Santos is optimistic that they can get the job done this time around, as they tapped the versatile Katherine Bell to replace Hurley. Veteran import Lindsay Stalzer continues to lead the team, along with Japanese libero Yuri Fukuda, Mika Reyes, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Remy Palma.
"I like our chances this year," said delos Santos. "Compared to last year, the chemistry and communication of the team have improved. Personally, I'm excited to start this finals series."
F2 Logistics coach Arnold Laniog, for his part, guaranteed that the Cargo Movers will be ready for the Blaze Spikers.
"The mindset of the players is to defend the title," said Laniog, who will lean on reigning MVP MJ Perez and Kennedy Bryan in the finals, along with their local core of Kim Fajardo, Aby Marano and Cha Cruz.
"I'm telling the players that they are the reigning champions and everybody is looking to beat them. So they have to show up prepared and ready to win because their pride as defending champions is at stake," he said.
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