Stalled in its bid for a tournament sweep en route to the crown, Petron suddenly found itself on the verge of a painful defeat.
F2 Logistics, its chief rival the past few years, forced the Philippine Superliga finals into a sudden-death showdown and flaunted a form that seemed ready to flip the script of the All-Filipino conference.
Petron coach Shaq delos Santos, however, defused the building pressure and sent his squad into the knockout duel for the gold on the saddle of calmness.
“We don’t have to be pressured,” he told them. “This is just volleyball. We have to play our normal game if we want to win the crown.”FEATURED STORIES
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More importantly, he asked them to rediscover the energy they had rode on through all their title runs.
“I just told them to bring back the old fire that made Petron successful in the past,” said Delos Santos.
The players responded.
Led by Rhea Dimaculangan, who became the first setter in four years to win an MVP trophy, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Bernadeth Pons, the Blaze Spikers slammed the door shut on the Cargo Movers, 25-22, 26-24, 25-23, in Game 3 Thursday night to successfully defend their crown.
Maizo-Pontillas and Pons provided the scoring firepower while Dimaculangan made sure her hitters had prime looks at making kills as Petron bounced back from a Game 2 defeat—the team’s only loss the entire conference.
“We really never thought of completing a sweep,” said Delos Santos. “We know how tough the competition is and winning all of our games will be very impossible. So instead of eyeing a sweep, what we did was prepare hard every day, give our best and respect our opponents.”
Dimaculangan, the 27-year-old former stalwart from University of Santo Tomas, expertly distributed the ball to notch the MVP trophy, the first for a setter since Army’s Tina Salak pulled off the feat four years ago.
Her partner during their UST days and now Petron teammate Maizo-Pontillas was named Best Opposite Hitter.
Cignal’s team captain Rachel Anne Daquis was adjudged First Best Outside Hitter, while Generika-Ayala’s Patty Orendain was Second Best Outside Hitter.
Another Lifesaver Marivic Meneses ran away with the First Middle Blocker honors, while F2 Logistics’ Majoy Baron was Second Best Middle Blocker.
F2’s Kim Fajardo was Best Setter, Generika’s Kath Arado was Best Libero and Cignal’s Mylene Paat was Best Scorer.
Also instrumental in Petron’s success were star middle Mika Reyes, Remy Palma, Ging Balse-Pabayo, Frances Molina, Pia Gaiser, Chloe Cortez, Angel Legacion, Sisi Rondina, Mela Tunay, Ria Duremdes and Jasmine Alcayde.
Assistant coach Ian Fernandez should also be credited for coming up with a solid scouting report on the Cargo Movers.
“This is a total team effort,” Delos Santos said. “This victory will not be possible without the he players, coaches, staff and the SMC management.