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Petron bucks slow start, enters final round on high note

The Petron Tri-activ Spikers, just like a diesel engine, heated up in the middle sets before zooming past the Foton Toplanders in a four-set win, 14-25, 25-16, 25-22, and 25-7, to enter the final round of the 2016 PSL Invitational Cup with a 5-1 slate.

“First time namin nakalaban itong Foton kaya nag-adjust muna yung players ko,” said Petron head coach George Pascua about the team’s slow start.

The floor defense of the Tri-activ Spikers was missing in the first set, as Shirley Salamagos and Angeli Araneta had a field day for Foton for an early 12-4 lead. At the other end, Petron could not string together a rally, as the Foton lead grew to as high as 11 in the set, 23-11. A service error by Cherry Nunag and a kill by Patty Orendain ended the set 25-14.

It was still the same story in the second set; the Tri-Activ Spikers were slow on their feet as Foton held an early 9-6 lead. However, Pascua challenged a call on a net touch by Maica Morada, which took at least five minutes to review. Even with the challenge unsuccessful, the momentum clearly shifted in favor of Petron, with Mina Aganon and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas leading a 9-0 rally that gave Petron a 17-12 lead. Errors by Foton at the latter part of the set and excellent spikes by CJ Rosario and Bang Pineda ended the set 25-16.

“Parang diesel talaga. Yun yung nakakatakot palagi sa amin yung first set,” Pascua shared about his team. “Sa kanila kasi tinatantsa tantsa talaga nila kapag kaya. Kung kaya naman, pagnakuha na nila yung composure at tempo nila kaya na.”

The third set was again close to start off the game. However, with Foton leading by just a solitary point, 13-12, disaster struck for the Toplanders. Rookie middle blocker Cherry Nunag went for a kill, but as Angeli Tabaquero went for a dig, she fell shoulder-first and had to be taken to a medical facility. Tabaquero was replaced by Sarina Bulan for the rest of the game.

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The loss of Tabaquero clearly rattled Foton, as afterwards Petron were able to gain a 24-17 lead. Foton tried to make one last rally but a Pontillas kill ended the set 25-22.

It was all Petron in the fourth and final set as they took a 16-7 lead. The Tri-active Spikers did not allow their opponents to score afterwards for a 25-7 win.

“Psychologically and emotionally, malaking bagay si Tabaquero sa kanila,” Pascua shared. “Especially yung setter kasi tandem dapat yung dalawa na yan e.”

Even if their team had also been affected by the injury, Pascua admitted that they had needed to dig deep to finish the game. “30 or 40% naramdaman nila yan. Sabi ko sa mga player ko, kahit nawala yung libero nila huwag huminto. Kelangan niyo i-challenge yung sarili niyo,” he added.

Aiza Maizo-Pontillas again led the Tri-activ Spikers with 20 points, 19 coming from spikes. Bang Pineda added 13 points, with nine coming from spikes, a block, and three aces.

For Foton, Patty Orendain led the Toplanders with 12 points. Angeli Araneta and Maica Ortiz had nine apiece.

The Petron Tri-Active Spikers (5-1) will move on to the final round of the 2016 PSL Invitational Cup that is set to begin on April 7. The Foton Toplanders finish their campaign with a 1-5 slate.

The Scores:

Petron (3) – Pontillas 20, Pineda 13, Morada 11, Aganon 9, Rosario 7, Nunag 6, Molina 2, Masangkay 0, Yongco 0, Legacion 0, Ugalde 0, Reyes (L), Del Mundo (L).

Foton (1) – Orendain 12, Araneta 9, Ortiz 9, Salamagos 7, Henson 6, Dawson 2, Dimaculanagan 1, Macatuno 0, Remulla 0, Tabaquero (L), Bulan (L).

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