PVL: Petro Gazz draws first blood against Cignal HD

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2022 07:50 PM | Updated as of Dec 01 2022 09:38 PM

Petro Gazz is one win away from a second straight PVL Reinforced Conference title. PVL Media.
Petro Gazz is one win away from a second straight PVL Reinforced Conference title. PVL Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Lindsey Vander Weide took charge down the stretch, as the Petro Gazz Angels completed a thrilling sweep of Cignal HD in Game 1 of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals, Thursday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Gazz Angels survived a tense battle in the third set to claim a 25-21, 27-25, 37-35 triumph, and move on the cusp of a second straight Reinforced Conference crown. 

Vander Weide, their American import, was sensational as she scored a career-best 34 points on 31 kills, two blocks, and an ace, while firing their last three hits to finally put the HD Spikers away after an extended battle.

"Siguro yung lesson lang samin nung other game, nung isang araw, with Cignal, nabitawan namin yung third set dun eh. Yun lang, mawala lang yung complacency," Petro Gazz coach Rald Ricafort said of the key to their win.

"Sabi ko nga sakanila, pag naka-dalawang set na kami minsan, may chance talaga mag-off talaga ng konti, [at] dun nagkakaron ng chance yung Cignal. Sabi namin today, wag nang bigyan ng ganung leeway," he added.

Vander Weide came up with a clutch block of Cignal HD setter Angel Cayuna in the second set that put them on the hill, 26-25, before MJ Phillips rejected Tai Bierria to give the Gazz Angels a 2-0 lead in the match. 

But the extended second set was just a precursor to the epic third frame that saw neither team want to give an inch. A service error by Jerrili Malabanan put the Gazz Angels at match point, 24-23, only for Bierria to fire a clutch kill that forced a deuce. 

They would exchange hits from there, and Cignal HD threatened to send the match to a fourth set when Cayuna scored from the service line for a 28-27 lead. But Vander Weide nailed a crosscourt hit to tie the count anew, 28-all.

A Ces Molina hit made it 34-33 in favor of Cignal HD, but Vander Weide was there to save the day once again, firing past the HD Spikers' net defense for a 34-all deadlock. The American shockingly sent her next attack out, and Petro Gazz's challenge for a block touch was unsuccessful.

But Vander Weide made sure to make up for her rare error. She scored in three consecutive rallies, including the final crosscourt attack that concluded the 45-minute marathon in the third set.

"That [third set] was stressful but I just knew whatever ball I got, I had to score. I really hurt my feelings when I hit that ball out, but I knew we were gonna bounce back because that's what we were doing every single point. So I was really confident the whole time even though it was a scary situation," said Vander Weide, who also had eight digs and five receptions in the win. 

Pablo and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas backed up Vander Weide with 10 points each. The Gazz Angels had a slim 60-53 lead in attacks and a 7-5 advantage in blocks; Cignal HD scored more aces, 8-3.

Bierria, who started the game for Cignal HD, had 18 points -- the lone player in double-digits for her team. Molina finished with nine points, all on kills, while Roselyn Doria had eight points including two kill blocks. 

Game 2 of the series is on Tuesday at the PhilSports Arena. A win by the Gazz Angels will give them a second straight Reinforced Conference title after winning their breakthrough championship in the 2019 edition of the event.