From the start, everyone labelled them as the “team to beat,” and they never failed to deliver.
Fully charged and fully armed, the Petron Blaze Spikers completed a first round, 5-0, sweep in the 2015 Philippine SuperLiga All-Filipino Conference, after sideswiping the Mane ‘N Tail Lady Stallions in five hard-hitting sets, 25-27, 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 16-14, Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“For the last five games madami kaming natutunan like ‘yung [mga pagbawi sa slow starts] namin sa past games,” said Petron head coach, George Pascua, on the team’s sweep. “Sabi ko nga sa kanila, hindi natin kalaban kung ano man [kasi] pag kinalaban niyo ang sarili niyo, iyon ang mangyayari sa atin. Sabi ko rin sa kanila kung gugustuhin nila, kaya naman nila.”
Moving on, let us now look at the factors that led to this team’s impressive start.
Every team must have a go-to player at all times, and luckily for Petron, their Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Abigail Maraño, Rachel Anne Daquis triple threat is every opposition’s cause of headache.
Superstars in their own right, each player previously mentioned effectively meshed their unique skill sets, which made Petron the well-oiled machine it is today.
In Manabat, arguably one of the best attackers in PH volleyball, the Blaze Spikers can easily penetrate any defensive scheme thrown to them. Also, the former National University Lady Bulldog’s volleyball IQ was always on full display as she effectively served as decoy in a lot of possessions, which kept their opponents second-guessing.
On the other hand, Maraño adds grit and leadership to an already stacked squad. The former De La Salle Lady Spiker’s all-around game also made her team more versatile, which can often lead to unconventional ways of attacking the opposition. Furthermore, Maraño, the PSL’s two-time Best Blocker, is one of the better two-way players in the league as her offensive and defensive prowess can easily ease off the pressure on her other teammates. Of course, we also can’t forget just how deadly her crosscourt spike of doom is.
Last but not the least, Daquis completes Petron’s Big Three. The former Far Eastern University Queen Tamaraw is the one responsible for doing all the little things for the team. She may not get as much touches she had during her younger years, but she definitely knows how to get things done. With every loose ball, steady reception, quick sets and the like, Daquis will always be the team’s bailout option.
Solid Supporting Cast
Aside from their triple threat, the rest of Petron’s roster is composed mostly of established players, who were known to lead their respective schools during their collegiate playing years.
Filling out the rest of the Blaze Spikers’ roster are the likes of Fille Cainglet Cayetano, Mina Aganon, Frances Molina, Maica Morada, Jen Reyes, Alexa Micek, Grace Masangkay, Ivy Perez, Ana Del Mundo, Jozza Cabalsa and Mayette Zapanta.
Clearly, having that kind of supporting cast easily makes the game lighter for the team as their collated experience can carry them when pressure arises. In addition, the younger members of the team can easily learn a thing or two from their highly experienced seniors.
Room for Improvement
Petron’s rampage in the PSL doesn’t stop here.
Even though the team is currently sitting comfortably atop the standings, they still have some glaring issues, particularly their habit of starting the game slow, which often results to huge deficits. As a matter of fact, the team’s last three games started a little bit sloppy, since they always let the opposing team take the lead first, and they had to play catch-up all throughout the contest.
Also, Perez should show more confidence especially during crunch time since she tends to succumb under pressure. As the team’s secondary setter, she must distribute the ball more with ease, rather than concentrating it on just one attacker. If she improves her craft as the tournament goes along, Petron will be even tougher to beat.
“Noong first three games namin, si Ivy ang binabad ko [sa starting six] para magkaroon ng confidence,” Pascua remarked. “Ngayon nakaka-adjust na siya.”
Another concern for this team is their players’ tendency to go into prolonged slumps. Yes, the team may be loaded with stars, but they often find themselves sitting on the fringe as they sometimes struggle to get their game going.
“Sabi ko sa kanila na once na hindi tayo natuto sa mga mistakes natin, possible tayong matalo,” Pascua added. “Individually malakas kami, pero dapat maging united pa as team dahil walang impossible pag gugustuhin namin manalo.”
Although it is safe to say that there will be a lot of time for improvement with the season merely being halfway through, the Blaze Spikers must always bear in mind that starting strong will lead to better results. In other words, prevention is better than a cure.
The Blaze Spikers next game will be against the Philips Gold Lady Slammers this Monday, 6:15 pm, at the Cuneta Astrodome.