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Petron breathes sigh of relief, survives Generika-Ayala to advance

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Judging by the number fans in the FilOil Flying V Centre, no one expected the Petron Blaze Spikers versus Generika-Ayala Lifesavers quarterfinals match to be exciting.

However, Petron — a consistent, dominant force throughout the 2017 Chooks-to-Go Philippine Superliga Grand Prix — were dragged into their toughest match of the conference by the seventh seed Generika-Ayala.

The Blaze Spikers still prevailed in their first five-setter of the conference, 19-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 15-11, and moved into the knockout semifinals phase.

“Hindi talaga ito ‘yung laro namin,” gasped Petron head coach Shaq Delos Santos as he sputtered into the press room. “Ang ganda kasi ng training namin buong linggo for this tapos sobrang baba ng nilaro namin ngayon. Sobrang tense ng galaw namin.”

Petron’s tension was palpable right from the onset, as Generika-Ayala grabbed a decisive win in the first set. After taking the second frame in equally decisive fashion, Petron seemed to have control of the match.

Generika, however, refused to give way. With the third set hanging in the balance, Generika-Ayala rattled off a 3-0 run thanks to clutch serving from Katarina Pilepic, that gave them a 24-21 advantage. After a Petron point, the Lifesavers salvaged a broken play and turned it into a terrific hit for Darlene Ramdin to clinch a 2-1 sets lead.

Petron began to regain form midway through the fourth set. Tied at 10, Ria Meneses delivered aces and solid serves that powered a 7-1 Petron rally that broke the game wide open. Generika-Ayala tried to rally, coming within four points, 14-18. They got in their own way, though, as their consecutive errors pushed Petron to a decider.

The fifth frame had Petron up 5-2 early, before Generika countered with a 4-0 run to take the lead. From there, the Blaze Spikers finally got over their foes. Generika’s stingy defense unraveled in the end, as Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley picked them apart and combined for six of Petron eight points, in a run that gave them a 14-10 advantage. Hurley then capped the match, powering in a cross-court kill over two Generika blockers.

“Alam naman ng lahat na kung ganito lalaruin namin sa semis, delikado kami. Kaya wake up call na din sa amin to pero, at the same time, malaking pasalamat namin na nagkaroon pa kami ngbopportunity,” closed Delos Santos.

Stalzer finished with 27 points, while Hurley added 21 to lead Petron. Mika Reyes had an-all around game, scoring 13 points off five attacks, four blocks, and three aces.

Ramdin put on her best performance in the PSL with 35 points, while her Croatian tag partner Katarina Pilepic added 22.

The Blaze Spikers will face the winner of the Foton versus Sta. Lucia match in the semifinals, which begins on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores

Petron (3) – Stalzer 27, Hurley 21, Reyes 13, Molina 9, Meneses 8, Palma 4, Dimaculangan 2, Hingpit 0, Pons 0, Pontillas 0, Rondina 0, Pineda (L), Fukuda (L)

Generika-Ayala (2) – Ramdin 35, Pilepic 22, Casugod 4, Masangkay 4, Cortez 2, Araneta 1, Ceballos 1, Adorador 0, Legacion 0, Orendain 0, Snuka 0, Arado (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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