Throughout the 2019 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, the Petron Blaze Spikers have dominated.
The defending champs toppled their own record win streak, going for 17 straight wins and booking a trip to the Finals against F2 Logistics.
Their incredible play stems mostly from their unstoppable import tandem of Kath Bell and Stephanie Niemer. The pair account for nearly 60-percent of Petron’s offense as Bell averaged 21 points in their semis sweep of Cignal HD while Niemer normed 29.5, including a 35-point explosion in Game Two.
Both Americans are quick to admit that Petron had to adjust to the intensity of the semifinals. While they cruised through the elimination round, only dropping one set, Petron lost the first set in each of their semifinals matches against Cignal HD.
For most teams, those would be considered minor setbacks. But for a team near perfection, Bell and Niemer know the team can be better.
“Sometimes, a loss is good. We take set losses as a game loss. We can change it and go back to what we know best and kind of bring back our fire. The set losses are good for us,” said Bell.
“I feel like losing sets and having teams just come out and play and fighting for their lives is, I think, something that we need to get comfortable with. We’re going to the Finals and F2 is gonna fight. It’s good for us to be in uncomfortable positions.”
“The first set was rough for us. We had to adjust, but, I think getting this game behind us it feels good. It feels good to start playing again. We honestly don’t even think about the record of the season or anything,” Niemer added.
“It’s kind of like a brand new season starting in the semis because we had almost a three-week break. We’re kind of starting fresh and just refocusing.”
There has never been an import tandem in the PSL as unstoppable as the Niemer and Bell. Both of them know that and relish what each other brings to the table. As Bell put it, it’s their mutual respect that allows them to thrive.
“One thing about me and Steph, what makes our relationship special is we don’t have a lot of pride, we don’t have egos when it comes to who’s scoring the most,” Bell said.
With the Finals in the horizon, the pair are raring to get to their goal of a championship.
“We’re just gonna stay focused. We have a goal and we don’t see any other options. We just wanna make sure that we achieve our goals,” said Niemer.
“It just… it feels normal. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we just won and we’re going to the Finals.’ We’re just taking it one step at a time,” Bell closed.
“We’re not thinking of going into the Finals and doing our best volleyball.”