MANILA, Philippines — As one of the four holdovers of Petro Gazz’s 2019 Reinforced Conference champion team, Djanel Cheng was glad to find her way back home and complete her team’s drive for a second straight title three years after their breakthrough.
Behind Lindsey Vander Weide’s dominant Finals performance was Cheng’s brilliant playmaking as she steered the Angels back on top of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference after completing a series sweep of the Cignal HD Spikers, 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22, in the Finals on Tuesday at Philsports Arena.
It was extra sweet for Cheng, who transferred to the defunct Sta. Lucia a year after Petro Gazz’s back-to-back Finals appearance in the 2019 season.
“Masaya kasi parang dito lang ako sa team na ‘to magkaka-champion. I mean, ang dami ko ng lipat, tapos bumabalik at bumabalik pa rin talaga dito. So, isa sa happy place ko ‘tong team,” said the veteran setter, who returned to Petro Gazz last January, reuniting with three other holdovers Chie Saet, Cienne Cruz, and Jonah Sabete.
(I’m so happy because I think I will only win a championship with this team. I mean I already transferred but I keep on coming back here. This team is one of my happy places.)
Cheng, who was promoted as a starting setter this conference in coach Rald Ricafort’s first full tournament, completed the Angels’ leap from missing the semis in the invitationals to champions.
Ricafort was glad that the former College of Saint Benilde stalwart made the most of the opportunity given to her, orchestrating a well-balanced offense for Petro Gazz.
“It was my goal to give Cheng a chance this conference. Because our opponents are much taller in this kind of conference. We need a tall line-up. Even in our last few games in the Invitationals, she was ready,” said the Petro Gazz coach. “We’re happy she got a break and she fulfilled her role.”
Cheng credited her success to veteran playmaker Chie Saet for guiding her throughout her return as starting setter.
“It became easier because Ate Chie was guiding me. She tells me the things she sees outside the court, making it quicker and easier for me to adjust,” she said.
Ricafort agreed with Cheng, saying her teammates were like a sponge — easy to absorb their plays.
“We’re thankful because our players are like a sponge. Whatever you instruct them, they are quick to absorb it and work on it. Everyone trusts each other and is willing to do their respective jobs,” he said.
Aside from her playmaking, the setter also delivered the crucial points in the fourth set that set the tone for a second straight championship.
For Cheng, she just wanted to end a long season with a championship and take a well-deserved rest after playing three conferences in one year.
“I’m happy with this championship. But all I wanted is to finally take a rest because we’ve been training for the whole year,” she said.
Cheng has to make the most of her long-awaited rest as it will be another busy 2023 season for Petro Gazz, which eyes a ‘three-peat’ in the Reinforced Conference and also looking to win an elusive Open Conference title.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.