MANILA, Philippines – What was expected to be a nip-and-tuck contest turned into a blowout as Petron overwhelmed F2 Logistics, 25-14, 25-21, 25-16, in Game 1 of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Finals on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Behind explosive performances by imports Hillary Hurley and Lindsay Stalzer, the Blaze Spikers secured a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series. They can win their first Grand Prix title since 2014 with a win in Game 2 on Thursday.
"Sobrang happy namin kasi 'yung pinaghandaan namin, 'yung game plan namin ay nasunod," said Petron coach Shaq delos Santos, who is hoping to lead the Blaze Spikers to their second PSL title this season.
Petron cruised to a comfortable victory in the opener but ran into trouble in the second frame, as F2 Logistics repeatedly went to its own prolific imports, Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan. It was a down-the-line kill by Bryan combined with a mishit by Hurley that tied the frame at 16-all.
Unfortunately for the Cargo Movers, Petron simply had an answer for every time that they threatened. After committing the error that tied the set, Hurley bounced back with a vicious down-the-line attack that sparked a 5-1 exchange. An attack by Bryan that went wide gave Petron a 21-17 lead.
The Blaze Spikers led 21-18 off a crosscourt kill by Stalzer, before Perez responded with her own attack and Majoy Baron scored at the service line to help trim the lead to two points, 23-21. Stalzer refused to let F2 Logistics draw any closer, however, as she scored the final two points of the frame for a 2-0 lead.
"I couldn't be happier with the result tonight," the veteran import said afterward. "It was a team effort, and everybody was at the top of their game."
Carrying the momentum of their triumph from the second set, the Blaze Spikers raced to a 7-2 lead in the third frame. F2 Logistics drew closer, coming to within two, 12-10, off kills by Abigail Maraño and Baron. Unfortunately, they killed their own momentum as they committed errors in the next four rallies that allowed Petron to pull away anew, 16-10, and the Blaze Spikers cruised to victory from there.
"I think ang game namin kanina, lahat ng ginawa namin ay hindi man perfect, pero ang ganda ng nangyari," said Delos Santos. "Naging effective ang game plan namin."
The win was a measure of revenge for Petron, as its lone loss in the elimination round came against Foton. This time around, Petron gave the Cargo Movers no opening: the Blaze Spikers committed only nine unforced errors, and had an advantage in every skill. They had more attacks (42-33) blocks (8-5) and aces(9-4). Rhea Dimaculangan also outplayed her counterpart, Kim Fajardo, tallying 25 excellent sets to Fajardo's nine.
Stalzer and Hurley were unstoppable as they each scored 20 points for the Blaze Spikers.
Perez, meanwhile, was the lone bright spot for F2 Logistics as she finished with 15 points. Kennedy was limited to eight markers.
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