Early in her promising career, Djanel Cheng has received the key to generate the offense for the Petro Gazz Angels.
Playing as the prime setter for her team in the 2019 PVL Reinforced Conference, Cheng brought out the best in Janisa Johnson and Wilma Salas, as well as the added artillery in Cherry Nunag, Jeanette Panaga, and Jonah Sabete.
In all, Cheng was deemed as the unsung hero behind the unprecedented run of the Angels. The product of St. Benilde averaged 4.97 sets per frame in the elimination round – just behind playmakers Jia Morado of Creamline and Jem Ferrer of BanKo – to help propel her team atop the standings and eventually, to the franchise’s first championship.
“Siyempre happy,” the 24-year-old playmaker said after averaging 23 sets per contest in the Finals.
“Pero at the same time, relief siguro kasi hindi easy job yung maging first setter.”
While Cheng stressed that the load of responsibility that she had to carry throughout the season was tough, she couldn’t have done it without the guidance of her seniors, Chie Saet in particular.
Saet, in her prime, is one of the best orchestrators the country has seen. She initiated the offense for a La Salle squad that won multiple titles in the UAAP and V-League in the early to mid-2000s. Even at the twilight of her career, she still provides solid playmaking whenever she steps on the taraflex.
Given this, Cheng has enjoyed learning from a battle-tested playmaker, who dissects the game from the side.
“Bilang ate, so siyempre, parang lagi naman siyang nagtatanong kay coach then after, nagtatanong rin siya sa akin, ‘Ate, anong kulang?’,” Saet, who is 10 years the senior of Cheng, cheerily recalled.
“Kasi siyempre, siya yung naglalaro kasi siya on-court [habang] kaming nasa outside, so mas marami kaming nakikita.”
Saet also disclosed that she’s simply returning the favor to the young setter, whom she treats as her younger sibling, after receiving the same treatment when she was still at the helm of the offense.
“Parang younger sister yung turing ko sa kaniya kaya mas madali kang makapag sabi kasi ganun rin naman siya last season na noong ako yung on-court,” she further recounted.
“Nagtatanong rin ako sa kaniya, bukod sa coaches, sinasabihan rin niya ako na, ‘Ate, try mo to’.”
Working hand-in-hand to perform their role the best way they can, Cheng and Saet have finally steered the Angels to the promised land.