The best club teams in the country – Petron and F2 Logistics – rekindle their bitter rivalry when they clash in Game 1 of their Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference best-of-three finals series today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Action starts at 6 p.m. with the Blaze Spikers and Cargo Movers bracing for an all-out war in their fifth straight finals duel in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Asics, Isuzu, Mikasa, Senoh, Mueller, UCPB Gen and Bizooku with Genius Sports as technical provider.
Prior to that, Cignal and Generika-Ayala seek for a strong finish in this league that also has ESPN5, Hyper HD and Aksyon TV as broadcast partners when they collide in the bronze-medal match at 4 p.m.
With a total of seven titles between them, the Blaze Spikers and Cargo Movers are arguably the most dominant teams in Philippine volleyball.
This conference is no exception.
Petron roared to 10 consecutive victories in the preliminaries before creaming Sta. Lucia in the quarterfinals and Cignal in the semifinals in lopsided fashions, moving two straight wins away from sweeping the entire conference.
Head coach Shaq Delos Santos said being in the finals may be a major achievement, but their job is not yet done as they are eager to crush F2 Logistics and cement their status as the most elite volleyball club in the country.
“We’re happy to be in the finals, but we’re not yet done with our mission,” said Delos Santos, who was part of the powerhouse Petron squad that swept the All-Filipino Conference in 2015.
Delos Santos said F2 Logistics is a force to be reckoned with, especially in the finals.
In the titular showdown of the Grand Prix last year, the Blaze Spikers were already on the verge of clinching the crown until F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus tweaked his lineup to turn things around and steal a massive victory in Game 2.
With momentum running high, the Cargo Movers finished the job with a masterful four-set conquest in Game 3, thanks to the big fighting heart of Most Valuable Player Maria Jose Perez of Venezuela, who bravely played while grieving over the death of her brother.
Delos Santos knows that the Cargo Movers are capable of springing a surprise.
“F2 (Logistics) is such a tough team that performs best when the series is on the line,” said Delos Santos, whose wards dominated the Cargo Movers in their first encounter, 22-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-20.
“I’m sure they did their homework and will show up prepared. We have to be ready. It’s going to be a tough battle.”
De Jesus shares Delos Santos’ observation, but stressed that it’s Petron which has the advantage for having a solid cast of starters and role players that is already used to playing big-time matches.
The seasoned guru, for one, noted that the Blaze Spikers’ reserve players like Bernadeth Pons, Sisi Rondina, Remy Palma and Angelica Legacion are capable of stepping up in case starters Rhea Dimaculangan, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and Mika Reyes conk out.
“Petron has a solid support staff, I know coach Shaq can utilize his second stringers the same way he’s playing his starters,” said de Jesus, who will bank on Cha Cruz, Ara Galang, Kim Fajardo, Majoy Baron Kianna Dy, Michelle Morente and Dawn Macandili.
“But at the end of the day, only six players will see action inside the court. So I think if we can adjust well, we have a good chance of winning over them.”