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Daquis, Santiago-Manabat save Petron’s unblemished record

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Blowing off yet another slow start, the Petron Blaze Blaze Spikers clung on to their undefeated record after burying the Mane ‘n Tail Lady Stallions in five thrilling sets, 25-27, 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 16-14 in their final match of the first round of the Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Conference at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Utilizing her patented running attack, Petron’s Dindin Santiago-Manabat dropped a conference-high 30 points off 27 attacks and three aces. Former Lady Tamaraw, Rachelle Anne Daquis, contributed 16 points and the two game-clinching attacks in the fifth set.

Mane ‘n Tail was scrappy the entire game, showing the preparedness it took to take down the defending champs. Their blockers seemed to always be in the right place, stuffing 92 of Petron’s 201 attack attempts while converting 10 of those blocks into points. Ultimately, Petron’s endless parade of attackers keyed the Blaze Boosters assault as they put in 71 total attacks.

Mane ‘n Tail almost took the first set convincingly after arriving at set point early, 24-20 but failed to deliver attacks powerful enough to stifle the ninja-like floor defense of former Lady Bulldog, Jen Reyes. Petron tied the match at 24 before their errors hampered their comeback.

In the following two sets, Santiago-Manabat began to flex her muscles, driving home running attack after running attack. Though Mane ‘n Tail diligently tracked her attacks, they were only able to stuff one of her attempts. Manabat scored 20 of her 30 points within those two sets, allowing Petron to handily regain control of the match.

Petron’s service reception eluded them in the fourth set, forcing them to send free balls to Mane ‘n Tail’s fired-up attackers, Danika Gendrauli, Abigail Praca, and former NCAA MVP, Royse Tubino. Petron also coughed up several errors in the set, sending the match into a deciding fifth set.

With Petron trailing early in the fifth set, 5-3, former La Sallian, Abigail Marano drove home three straight running attacks followed by two Daquis attacks, then a block shifted the momentum in Petron’s favor. Petron held on to their three-point advantage up until they arrived at match-point, 14-11. It was then Petron’s turn to leave the door open for their foes as Lady Stallion, Sam Dawson clinched two straight service aces, sending the match to deuce. Daquis then brought Petron home first with a powerful attack off two blockers then an easily dropped free ball.

“At least, kahit papaano, nahahandle nila ‘yung mga ganoong situwasyon,” said Petron Coach George Pascua. “Sabi ko sa kanila, kung gugustuhin [ng mga kalaban], magiging delikado para sa atin ‘yun.”

Petron will face the Philips Gold Lady Slammers in their first match of the second round on Monday while the Lady Stallions will face the Foton Tornadoes on the same day.

The Scores:

Petron (3) – Manabat 30, Daquis 16, Maraño 14, Aganon 9, Molina 5, Morada 5, Cayetano 3, Perez 1, Masangkay 0, Reyes (L)

Mane ‘n Tail (2) – Tubino 25, Praca 16, Gebdrauli 11, Gustillo 11, Mabbayad 5, Argarin 2, Dawson 2, Desengano 0, Veronas 0, Cortel (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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