Looking good and ready for a title repeat, Petro Gazz will have four days to further toughen up and guarantee its return to the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference throne.
The long break in a best-of-three finals could stall the winner’s momentum but the Angels couldn’t care less, considering they had waited for three years to defend the crown they won in stirring fashion when they edged the fancied Creamline Cool Smashers in sudden death to score a breakthrough in 2019.
The same way Cignal has a great deal of time to figure out what went wrong in its first foray in the PVL finals.
Foremost of which is how to contain or slow down, at least, Lindsey Vander Weide.
The American has wreaked havoc on the HD Spikers’ defense, unleashing a scorching 31-kill game in Petro Gazz’s 25-21, 27-25, 37-35 Game One win last Thursday.
Most of those blasts were so sharp, compelling and virtually indefensible, six of which she delivered in the clutch.
She did have mishits and at times, her shots were foiled. But she would recover from each stumble with a fierceness of a fighter that has marked her game since leading the Angels with a 25-point output, including 20 kills, past the Choco Mucho Flying Titans, 27-25, 25-22, 28-26, to launch their title-retention campaign last Oct. 11.
“That was stressful,” said Vander Weide after pouring it all, particularly in the energy-sapping third set skirmish, and steering the Angels to the series’ opening win over the HD Spikers.
“I just knew whatever ball I got I had to score,” said Vander Weide, who added two blocks and an ace to highlight her big 34-point performance.
The Petro Gazz locals likewise played their roles to the hilt to help anchor the team’s straight-set win. Myla Pablo and Aiza Pontillas matched 10-point games, MJ Phillips fired eight points, including three on blocks, and Remy Palma added five markers.
Pontillas also shone in a nerve-wracking third set battle, flashing vintage form and producing key hits when Vander Weide rotated to a back row position as the Angels slugged it out with the equally-determined HD Spikers spike-for-spike, block-for-block and dig-for-dig.
In the end of a grueling set, however, Vander Weide and the Angels came out the victors, moving a win away from delivering a second PVL crown to the franchise.
Despite marking their first PVL championship stint with a straight-set loss, however, the HD Spikers know they have what it takes to bring down the Angels. In fact, many believe the three sets could’ve gone either way, the outcome practically aided by breaks in the stretch although the Angels’ championship poise helped spell the difference in the end.
But expect the HD Spikers, led by import Tai Bierria and seasoned campaigners Ces Molina, Rachel Anne Daquis, Riri Meneses and Roselyn Doria along with Angeli Araneta and Chay Troncoso, to make the necessary adjustments come Game 2 on Tuesday back at the Philsports Arena in Pasig and emerge from the setback a better, stronger crew.
Fans also await for a grand duel of playmaking skills between Petro Gazz’s Djanel Cheng and Cignal’s Gel Cayuna with the latter out to redeem herself after the former got the better of her in the series opener.
Otherwise, the Angels could be heading to another championship run.