It will go down as a 1-0 lead for Petro Gazz in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference title series after the Angels repulsed Cignal, 25-21, 27-25, 37-35 Thursday night, but the highest quality of play was the treat a half-filled Smart Araneta Coliseum crowd got that emphasized why both these teams are fighting for the crown.
Simply put, the Angels and the HD Spikers have come up with a storyline for themselves which makes everyone forget about that botched Creamline Grand Slam that was the focus at the start of the tournament and reeled in record crowds.
The Angels moved within a win of retaining the crown they won three years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all of sports in the country, and despite making the finals via the backdoor on Tuesday, Petro Gazz made good on its promise to make the most out of this opportunity.
“Super happy because we are one game away from being champions again,” said setter Djanel Cheng in Filipino after being named the Best Player of the match over import Lindsey Vander Weide, who scored the Angels’ final four points of the one-hour and 48 minute match.
The fiery American was relentless with 31 attacks on the way to a 34-point output as Petro Gazz also drew 10 points each from Myla Pablo and Aiza Pontillas.
“Oh my gosh, that [third set] was stressful but I just knew whatever ball I got, I had to score,” said Vander Weide.
And after being dragged through the proverbial wringer by the HD Spikers, Cheng and the rest of the Angels know that they cannot take it easy, even with Game 2 slated on Tuesday.
“We still had a lot of lapses,” Cheng said. “We need to review [the Game 1 tape] and address all of them for the next game.”
The scoreline will also say that it was a straight-sets win, and will not necessarily reflect how close it was.
The HD Spikers made it that way, but they just couldn’t put the finishing touches in the second and third frames which could have made it an entirely different outcome.
Cignal saved a total of nine match points, but eight service blunders in the third set doomed the HD Spikers, who will have to hold it together on Tuesday to take this thing to a decider as the Angels will come in with all the momentum they need for the potential championship-clincher.
Meanwhile, on the strength of 17 blocks, Creamline turned back Chery Tiggo, 25-22, 22-25, 25-5, 25-19, and moved a win from clinching the bronze medal.
Licking the wounds of their failed Grand Slam bid after the Crossovers forced a five-setter in their last semis game on Tuesday, the Cool Smashers remained hungry to finish the season strong as Jeanette Panaga unloaded nine blocks to finish with 14 points, while Tots Carlos and Alyssa Valdez propelled their attacking.
“Our mindset was to play our game and bring back our ‘happy, happy’ mentality. Coach Sherwin [Meneses] told us to play with less pressure and think of the reason why we’re here,” said Panaga in Filipino after tying the season-high in blocking set by Rose Doria during Cignal’s five-set win over PLDT in the Invitationals’ battle for third.
With Turkish spiker Yeliz Basa and middle blocker Ced Domingo sitting out, Carlos led Creamline with 19 points off 18 attacks and a block on top of 17 digs, as Valdez also joined the block party with four blocks to finish with 16 markers and had 10 digs.
—WITH A REPORT FROM Lance D. Agcaoili
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