Petro Gazz forged a fourth title showdown with Creamline in the last seven Premier Volleyball League conferences, advancing to the finals with a smashing 25-17, 25-23, 25-15 victory over PLDT in their sudden death for the other championship berth at SM Mall of Asia Arena last night.
A fiery run midway in the opening frame, a courageous escape in a back-and-forth second set and a dominant closeout completed the Angels’ mastery of the High Speed Hitters, who succumbed to their rivals’ sustained firepower, baffling quick attacks and superb blocking.
They also reeled from the sidelining of top hitter Mean Mendrez, who accidentally landed on Petro Gazz’s Aiza Pontillas’ foot in the third set. She did return but only after the Angels have established control and were already gearing up for another shot at PVL glory.
“I just challenged them. We always challenge these players and they accepted it and acknowledged that they can do it,” said Petro Gazz coach Oliver Almadro. “I saw the fierceness in their eyes, I saw that they really wanted to bounce back.”
And bounce back from a Game 2 loss they did as the Angels set the tone for the rout after storming to a 16-11 lead in the first set and then rolling to an eight-point romp. Dragged into a tight, furious second-set skirmish, the two-time Reinforced Conference champions used their veteran smarts to pull through, going 2-0 set up on MJ Phillips’ stinging back-to-back quick plays.
Remy Palma then took over in the third, racking up three straight points to key Petro Gazz’s big 11-5 start before the Angels pulled away at 20-9 on their way to winning their best-of-three semis matchup.
Petro Gazz repelled PLDT, 22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-18, in Game One but the High Speed Hitters battled back from a set down in Game 2 and fashioned out a 14-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-15 win to force a decider.
The Angels, however, turned what was expected to be a tight, frenetic duel into a romp with the lefty Pontillas hammering out a kill right in the heart of the High Speed Hitters’ defense to cap their emphatic one-hour, 53-minute victory.
“Sa huddle namin, rise mentality, rise up attitude, so gusto nilang makabawi agad and I’m happy,” said Almadro. “Nag struggle talaga sila nung Game 2, but I’m really happy that they bounced back.”
An emotional Jonah Sabete let it all out after steering the Angels to another finals appearance in the league organized by Sports Vision.
“Sobrang happy, kasi ito talaga ung gusto namin,” said Sabete, who lacks in ceiling but packs with so much power on top her leaping ability to help lead another Petro Gazz assault with 13 points.
“Pagod at sakripisyo, nakuha talaga namin at napatunayan namin na kaya ng Petro Gazz,” added the Bulacan State U product, who also finished with six excellent digs.
But waiting in the wings is powerhouse Creamline, which swept F2 Logistics in their side of the Final Four last Tuesday.
Game One of the best-of-three finals is set at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday with the Cool Smashers looking for a sixth championship and the Angels seeking their third and a second straight crown after topping the Reinforced Conference last December.
Creamline beat Petro Gazz in last year’s Open Conference.
Phillips topscored with 15 points while Grethcel Soltones fired 12 hits while providing the leadership and Palma and Pontillas added nine and seven points, respectively.
Jovie Prado and Dell Palomate carried the fight for PLDT with 10 points apiece while Mika Reyes scored seven points and Michelle Morente settled for a six-point effort and Mendrez struggled and wound up with four markers.