Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos credited his team’s Game 2 performance to a so-called open forum, where members of his squad aired their feelings and committed to finishing the job.
The Blaze Spikers can do exactly that when they face F2 Logistics in the deciding game of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title series on Saturday, May 4.
Opening serve is at 7 p.m. at FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“We accepted Game 1 as a challenge. It was a wakeup call,” said Delos Santos, whose bid to sweep the tournament was doomed by a 25-20, 16-25, 25-23, 25-23 loss in Game 1.
Petron evened the finals with a 23-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 victory in Game 2.
“After losing in Game 1, we had an open forum where we allowed everybody to express their feelings, the coach added.
“We have to release all of those so we can feel the presence of each other. I’m glad that everybody stepped up and was on the same page all throughout the match.”
Behind strong games by Americans Stephanie Niemer and Katherine Bell, Petron put itself back in championship contention.
The hard-hitting Bell delivered 25 points and 24 digs in Game 2, while Niemer chipped in 23 hits for the Blaze Spikers, who finally drew impressive numbers from their local crew of Mika Reyes, Rhea Dimaculangan and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas.
Reyes, the comely former La Salle star, had 7 kills, 4 blocks and a pair of aces for 13 points while veteran Maizo-Pontillas knocked down 7 points to compliment the 29 excellent sets tallied by her former University of Santo Tomas teammate in Dimaculangan.
To better their chances of winning, the Blaze Spikers need to set the tone early.
In Games 1 and 2, Petron yielded the first set, allowing F2 Logistics to build momentum early. The Blaze Spikers managed to crawl out of trouble in Game 2, as Bell and Niemer spewed fire from the attack zone to gain control.
“We have to check our consistency, especially at the start of the match,” said Delos Santos, who is also the head coach of the national women’s volleyball team headed for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
“We have to come up with a strong start and a stronger finish to avoid trouble. F2 Logistics is such a solid and veteran team. They will surely take advantage of the opportunity if we’ll have another slow start.”
F2 coach Ramil de Jesus acknowledged that Petron is the country’s strongest team on paper; that is why the Cargo Movers feel “no pressure.”
After all, stretching the series to a deciding Game 3 is already a major achievement for a team that changed its import midway in the conference and has star setter Kim Fajardo riding the bench due to injury.
“Whatever the results will be, everybody is already happy. Getting this far is already a significant achievement,” said de Jesus, who will bank anew on reinforcements Lindsay Stalzer and Maria Jose Perez, as well as the local crew of Ara Galang, Aby Marano and Dawn Macandili.
“But still, we will do our best. If we won in Game 1 over this strong Petron team, there’s no reason for us not to win in Game 3. We have to be ready. This is going to be a dogfight.”
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