PVL: Petro Gazz retains Reinforced Conference crown after sweeping Cignal HD

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2022 07:58 PM | Updated as of Dec 06 2022 08:39 PM

The Petro Gazz Angels are once again champions of the PVL Reinforced Conference. PVL Medial
The Petro Gazz Angels are once again champions of the PVL Reinforced Conference. PVL Medial

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Petro Gazz Angels remain the gold standard in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference, retaining their title by sweeping Cignal HD in their best-of-3 Finals series on Tuesday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

The Gazz Angels completed their title defense by downing the HD Spikers in Game 2, 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22 for their second championship in the PVL.

Petro Gazz won its breakthrough crown in the 2019 Reinforced Conference when they defeated the Creamline Cool Smashers. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they wound up waiting three years to defend their title.

The wait was worth it for the Gazz Angels, who got contributions from all their key players in the four-set triumph. Leading the way anew was prolific American import Lindsey Vander Weide with 19 points in their win, eventually winning Finals MVP honors. Three of Petro Gazz's locals also reached double-digits.

Vander Weide conspired with middle blocker MJ Phillips in setting the tone of the match in the opener, and the Gazz Angels responded to a second set loss with a dominant performance in Set 3. 

The HD Spikers came alive in the second set, reaching set point off a Rachel Anne Daquis hit, 24-21. A quick kill by Phillips temporarily kept the Gazz Angels alive, but Daquis fired another hit off the Petro Gazz blockers to tie the match at one set apiece.

But Cignal HD couldn't sustain their momentum. Instead, they were routed in the third set by Petro Gazz, who peppered them with 15 kills and tallied four blocks. The Gazz Angels were barely threatened in a 25-12 victory in the third. 

Petro Gazz appeared headed for a comfortable win in Set 4, where they led 18-11 after back-to-back points from Remy Palma and a block by Vander Weide. But the HD Spikers mounted one last fightback, and came within a point, 20-19, after two straight points from their American import, Tai Bierria. 

Vander Weide responded with two consecutive kills of her own for a 22-19 count, before Bierria scored anew to trim the deficit to two points. But Vander Weide was unstoppable, and her next attack sliced through the Cignal HD blockers for a 23-20 count. Myla Pablo put Petro Gazz at championship point with a massive hit that bounced off Cignal HD's Glaudine Troncoso. 

Kills from Bierria and Ces Molina temporarily stalled Petro Gazz's march to the title, and forced coach Rald Ricafort to sue for time. But Pablo would not be denied: her crosscourt hit finished off the HD Spikers and clinched a second straight Reinforced Conference title for the Gazz Angels.

Palma finished with 19 points, including five blocks, while Pablo added 17 points. For Pablo, this is her first championship in the PVL since the 2017 Reinforced Conference, when she was still playing for Pocari Sweat. Phillips added 12 points, three of them on blocks.

Djanel Cheng had 26 excellent sets, while Bang Pineda put up 22 digs and 17 receptions.

Molina had 14 points in a losing effort for Cignal HD. Bierria, who did not play in the first set, scored 12 points. This is still the best finish for the HD Spikers since joining the PVL, having settled for third place in the Open and Invitational Conferences.

Petro Gazz won Game 1 of the series last Thursday, 25-21, 27-25, 27-25.