If offense wins games while defense wins championships, F2 Logistics brewed the perfect blend of both in order to defend its PSL Invitationals throne on Thursday evening.
Relying on their vaunted net and floor coverage, on top of their high-octane offense, the Cargo Movers outlasted their arch-rivals Petron Blaze Spikers, 25-22, 25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 15-12, at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
Locked in a seesaw battle in the opening salvo, Majoy Baron roamed at the forefront, serving as the tower of power for F2 Logistics. She nailed three crucial blows in a 4-1 run that cut the Cargo Movers loose from a 20-all knot for the early buffer.
The Cargo Movers then carried over momentum and dictated the tempo in the second frame. They mounted a 20-14 cushion after Baron stymied the hot-handed Sisi Rondina. The Blaze Spikers attempted to pick up steam late, but their own miscues sent them down a tailspin.
That left the door open for Baron to deliver the set-clinching hits that pushed F2 Logistics closer to a title.
In the face of danger, however, the Blaze Spikers displayed the confidence they had lost in the previous frame. Clinging on a slim 18-17 edge, Petron simmered down the scorching Cargo Movers through its steady service game for a 22-17 advantage. Bernadeth Pons and Chloe Cortez then pummeled the differential hits, giving their beleaguered team a lease on life.
The Blaze Spikers were then quick to seize control in the fourth stanza. They got their firepower from Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Pons and sprinting to an 11-6 spread. But the troika of Kalei Mau, Kim Kianna Dy, and Baron towed F2 Logistics back in front, 19-17, before Rondina and Maizo-Pontillas connived to tie things up at 19.
It was a battle of attrition from that point onward. Both teams refused to rest on their laurels, forging deadlock after deadlock. Knotted at 22, Maizo-Pontillas zeroed in and lifted Petron at match point. Rondina then smashed her way through F2 Logistics’ wall, bringing the match back to square one.
Jolted to their senses, the Cargo Movers jumped out of the rubber set with a 10-4 lead after Mau stunned the Blaze Spikers with a thunderous kill and a booming ace. A block touch infraction then disrupted F2 Logistics’ blistering pace, letting the floodgates open for Petron’s resurgence, 8-10.
Deep into the final stretch, the thrilling chapter of a storied rivalry match came down to who had more poise amid the pressure-packed atmosphere.
As it turned out, the Cargo Movers proved more composed. Errors also spelled disaster for Petron. Following a series of miscues, F2 Logistics sat at a 13-9 cushion.
Maizo-Pontillas then strapped the Blaze Spikers behind her back with consecutive attacks. Mau restored order with a through-the-block hit, 14-11.
Baron then muffed a service attempt that stalled the Cargo Movers’ championship moment. However, Maizo-Pontillas committed an untimely net touch that completed F2 Logistics’ title-retention bid.
Mau erupted for 30 points anchored on 27 attacks and three kill blocks, while manning the floor with 21 excellent digs. She willed through pain and fatigue to help the Cargo Movers exact vengeance against the Blaze Spikers, who reigned over the PSL Grand Prix at F2 Logistics’ expense earlier in the year.
“Talagang medyo in pain pa si Kalei, pero sabi niya talagang maglalaro siya. ‘Yun ang medyo nagustuhan ko. Alam ko napagod siya nung fifth set dahil halos lahat ng bola sa kanya na. Gusto ko lang sa batang ‘to talagang fighter,” F2 Logistics head coach Ramil De Jesus said.
Conference-Most Valuable Player Baron and Dy supplied 15 and 14 markers, respectively. Aby Maraño chipped in 10 points. Baron and Maraño collected five and four kill blocks apiece, notching all but two of F2 Logistics’ block total of 11.
Kim Fajardo churned out the offense for the Cargo Movers with 14 excellent sets. Defensive specialist Dawn Macandili had 26 excellent digs and nine excellent receptions.
On the other hand, Maizo-Pontillas topped Petron with 23 points built on 20 attacks, a pair of kill blocks and service aces. Pons provided the spark off the bench for the Blaze Spikers, accounting for 18 markers and 18 excellent digs.
Rondina managed 14 points in a losing cause for Petron, which also strung 28 excellent digs and 17 excellent receptions from Denden Lazaro. League Best Setter Angelica Legacion had 15 excellent sets.