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Pascua opens up on Petron’s tough PSL Grand Prix title defense

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It’s been an up-and-down campaign so far for defending Philippine Superliga Grand Prix champions Petron Blaze Spikers.

To open their season, they were greeted with a come-from-behind five set defeat from the Cignal HD Spikers, but they quickly bounced back with convincing wins against the Meralco Power Spikers and the Foton Tornadoes. Then Petron tasted its second loss of the season in their five-set thriller against the Philips Gold Lady Slammers at the Cuneta Astrodome.

“Kailangan pa sa amin na hindi kami pwede magrelax at hindi pwede magpabaya dahil ang labanan ngayon is kung sino ang may desire manalo. Basta ang iniisip namin na [everytime] kami maglalaro, championship game ito at parang last game,” Petron head coach George Pascua told Tiebreaker Times when asked about his team’s current performance. “Iyan ang motivation na sinasabi ko sa players kasi iyong willingness nilang manalo iyong ang [magdadala] sa amin.”

Taking a quick glance at the team’s current lineup, nothing much has changed save for their new import Rupia Inck, who took over the role previously occupied by 2014 GP MVP Alaina Bergsma.

But despite no major roster moves during the off season, Petron is still a heavily-stacked team that features established superstars like Dindin Santiago Manabat, Abigail Marano, and Rachel Anne Daquis for their main core. There is, however, the pressure of being the defending champion that makes games tough, since opposing teams will give it their best shot against them.

“Siyempre kasi sabi ko sa kanila we are the defending champions. Tingnan niyo nung nanalo ang Cignal para na rin sila nagchampion and they cried siyempre pride nila iyong talunin kami,” Pascua remarked. “Sabi ko sa kanila, lahat ng kalaban natin gumaganda ang laro dahil nachachallenge sila sa atin. So kailangan din natin challenge ang sarili natin para makapagcompete sa kanila.”

Unlike the All-Filipino Conference, the performances of the team’s foreign reinforcements will factor in heavily in their shot for the title. Given that most of the imports present in the current GP are NCAA Division I standouts and National Team players from their respective countries, this PSL conference is certainly the most competitive of this dual-conference season.

So far, Petron has been steady enough, thanks to Inck’s performance as their main outside hitter. With the help of Brazillian setter Erica Adachi, it is only a matter time until they become familiar with each other and maximize each player’s skills whenever they hit the floor. Their experience playing internationally will also help the team’s play as a whole.

“Si Inck at si Adachi, kahit paano nakakaano [naman sila]. Si Inck may times pa rin sa kanya na gusto kong makita ang consistency ng ginagawa nila kasi gusto kong maximized ang talent nila sa court,” Pascua added. “Ang experience namin sa abroad malaking bagay ang na-gain namin doon. Hopefully ma-aaply namin dito kasi iba rin kapag may international exposure.”

Now, with the conference still at its early stages, Pascua and the Blaze Spikers (2-2) hope that they can find the peak form that has made them dominant over the past conferences. As many have said, it is not how you fall, but how you get up from it.

“Sabi ko nga sa mga player ko, hindi naman kung paano natin inumpisahan. Ang importante is kung paano namin tatapusin,” Pascua quipped. “Kung saan ka nadapa doon ka babangon. Parang iyon ang trigger para maging aggressive kami.”

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