Expect Creamline to flaunt its vaunted firepower but Petro Gazz is out to showcase its awesome blocking that helped steer it to another title crack against the most fancied team in the Premier Volleyball League.
But the All Filipino Conference finals firing off today (Sunday) at the SM Mall of Asia Arena will also put into focus two coaches with varying forms and styles.
And while Creamline’s Sherwin Meneses has been into it a number of times, Oliver Almadro of Petro Gazz is on his first stab at PVL glory.
That after he guided the Angels to a convincing 25-17, 25-23, 25-15 victory over the PLDT High Speed Hitters in their sudden death for the right to face the Cool Smashers in the best-of-three series last Thursday, marking Almadro’s first-ever finals trip since he joined the league in 2019 with Choco Mucho.
Prior to this, the former Flying Titans tactician’s highest finish in the PVL was fourth in the 2021 Open Conference in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte and in the 2022 Open Conference.
“Well first, I thank the Lord for the strength. Sabi nga nila, the Lord will move to put you in the right direction. So, I didn't know, I'm not expecting to be in the finals right away, I didn't really.... I really didn't expect this,” said Almadro.
Meneses, who is in fifth finals outing, sees a furious clash with the Angels, whom they swept in the elims, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“Magandang laban. Sa akin pangatlong beses ko ng makakalaban ang Petro Gazz,” said Meneses.
Despite the absence of leader and top-hitter Alyssa Valdez, the Cool Smashers have kept their domination of the field, topping the elims and sweeping the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in the semis behind Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao, Ced Domingo and ace playmaker Jia de Guzman.
But Petro Gazz believes it has the materials to topple the defending champion with veteran Grethcel Soltones enjoying top form after a long while, Aiza Pontillas continuing to provide not just leadership but also clutch hits, Jonah Sabete rising to every challenge, and the duo of Remy Palma and MJ Phillips itching to anchor the team’s net defense again.
Throughout their finals run, Djanel Cheng has also kept the Angels’ offense humming.
Almadro, meanwhile, thanked the Angels for accepting him right away and for helping him reach a milestone in his (coaching) career.
“No, I really thank these girls, I really thank these girls kasi they trusted me right away, they trusted me right away. And you know, finals right away, it's a big blessing. Kasi everybody wants to be in this position,” said the UAAP champion coach, who took over the spot left by now PLDT mentor Rald Ricafort last January.
“But, many teams will underestimate us. Many teams will be 'oh, wala naman yung Petro Gazz, hindi naman sila yan, wala naman yan'. But we will show the performance, it will show for itself kung saan kami abutin and kung saan kami dalin ni Lord,” he added.
The Angels thus earned the chance to dethrone the Alyssa Valdez-less Creamline, which is gunning for a second consecutive crown in the league’s centerpiece event, formerly the Open Conference.
This marks their second consecutive showdown in the import-less conference – and their fourth overall in the league organized by Sports Vision. The Angels’ finals win-loss record against the Cool Smashers is 1-2, winning the 2019 Reinforced Conference but yielding the 2019 Open and 2022 Open Conference championships.
“Sabi namin, to reach that dream, kailangan may goal kami. We have to commit and be consistent in that goal so, yun lang, kung san kami abutin, yun lang naman ang atin eh. They are there, kami underdog kami. So, sabi nga namin, trabaho lang kami kung san kami abutin. We're a strong team, great teams will just push us forward.”
Meanwhile, F2 Logistics and PLDT also start their own best-of-three series for third at 4 p.m.
Games are telecast live on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play, and SMART Live Stream and on pvl.ph.