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Foton takes Finals opener, nears unseating Petron

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The Foton Tornadoes looked more like a breeze at the beginning of the season, dropping to the bottom of the standings with losses to all the eventual semifinalists in the first round.

The Tornadoes, however, picked up intensity in the second round knocking off all their first round tormentors except the Petron Blaze Spikers.

Revenge came at sweetest of times for Foton, taking down the defening Philippine Superliga Grand Prix in Game One of the best-of-three Finals 14-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22, at the historic Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Starting the match off sluggishly, Foton went down in the opening set by as much as seven, 16-9, and allowed Petron to easily take the set. Foton recovered in the second set, burying Petron in a ten-point hole 16-6. But Petron regained form momentarily and trimmed the Foton lead down to two, 22-20. Working off their ruckus crowd, Foton closed the set out thanks to attacks from Katie Messing.

The third and fourth set lacked thrilling action with the Blaze Spikers putting up a deflated effort. Petron had a shot at taking the last set after erasing a four-point Foton lead to trail by just one, 21-22, but their own miscues put the finishing touches on the match.

Foton adjusted their lineup, switching Jaja Santiago and Angeli Araneta’s middle blocker position to create rotations where they had their two imports, Lindsay Stalzer and Katie, and Santiago in the front line at the same time. Their adjustment worked with Stalzer firing off unstoppable attacks from all angles and amassing 25 points. The towering open hitter, Messing threw down 17 markers which includes four blocks while Santigao contributed 10 points.

“I think we executed really well down the stretch. Thankfully naka-recover kami from the first set. I think we played with too much pressure. The team knows that we really weren’t expected to reach the Finals after how we started so we should just enjoy that we’re here in the Finals and let Petron feel the pressure of repeating,” said Foton head coach Vilet Ponce De Leon who coached Petron in their debut season.

Brazilian import, Rupia Inck led Petron with 21 points while former league MVP Dindin Manabat contributed 16 points.

Foton can win the title in Game Two on Monday, 4 p.m. at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The Scores

Foton (3) – Stalzer 25, Messing 17, Santiago 10, Araneta 7, Perez 5, Williams 5, Ceballos 0, Acevedo (L), General (L)

Petron (1) – Rupia 21, Manabat 16, Molina 11, Daquis 8, Adachi 7, Aganon 3, Maraño 2, Cayetano 0, Masangkay 0, Morada 0, Reyes (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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