MANILA, Philippines – PetroGazz head coach Arnold Laniog challenged his players to show a greater sense of urgency and desire, after the Angels fell to the Creamline Cool Smashers in Game 1 of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference finals.
The Angels claimed the opening frame, thanks to clutch hits by Janisa Johnson, but their level of play dipped in the next two sets. Their rally was then rebuffed by Creamline in Set 4, and a violation by Cherry Nunag put the finishing touches on the Cool Smashers' 24-26, 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 triumph.
"There's a point sa game talaga, sabi ko, ang kalaban is always andiyan sa harap niyo, to give us a challenge, kung gaano ba tayo katibay as a team," Laniog said after the loss. "With respect din talaga sa Creamline, talagang gusto nila 'tong Game 1 na 'to."
There were some concerns for Laniog heading into the match, after observing his team's last two practices ahead of Game 1.
"Binabalik-balikan ko rin 'yung tanong ko sa kanila. Dahil pagdating naman sa technical, napag-aralan din naman namin sila," said the coach.
"But in the end nga, gaano ba nga kagusto? Hindi pwedeng gusto lang. Pero pag sinabi mong gustong-gusto talaga, it will start sa training na magpu-push talaga sila sa isa't isa eh," he added.
"Gaya nga ng sinabi ko sa last two trainings namin, hindi ko talaga nakita na gusto nating manalo today."
Laniog felt that the Angels were not pushing themselves as hard as they could, given the stakes of the game.
"Kumbaga, nagte-training sila siguro dahil akala nila okay na. Pero ako I just keep reminding na talagang hindi pa enough, hindi pa talaga enough to get the championship," he said.
The good news for Laniog and his team is that they are still alive in the series. They have proven that they can beat Creamline before, having given the Cool Smashers their lone loss of the tournament back in May 26 when they opened the season.
But Creamline has beaten them in consecutive games since, and the Angels will have to elevate their performance if they want to end that skid.
"Kasi sabi ko nga, 'yung situation natin ngayon, pinili natin 'yan. Na mas mahirap talaga, na i-twice-to-beat natin sila," said Laniog. "So kung pinili natin 'to, kailangan natin panindigan as a team, hindi individual."
With this in mind, Laniog issued a challenge to his team.
"So kung gusto natin ma-extend 'yung game sa Sunday, umpisahan natin bukas sa training. Kailangan makita ko. Kailangan maparamdam natin sa isa't isa," he said.
"Dahil talagang, 'yung Creamline na 'yan, talagang kukunin na nila 'yan sa Saturday. Pero ang tanong, gaano ba natin pipigilan talaga?"
The Cool Smashers can clinch the title on Saturday, July 13, at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. A Game 3, if necessary, will be held on Sunday, July 14, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
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