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Unbeatable: Petron sweeps entire season to claim first AFC title

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Almost as fast as gas prices hike, Petron realized the potential of their powerful lineup throughout the PSL All-Filipino Conference. They peaked in the Finals ending in a dominant sweep of the Shopinas Lady Clickers, culminating in a classic Game Two four-setter, 25-17, 22-25, 30-28, 25-17 in the Cuneta Astrodome, Thursday night.

Petron went undefeated in 13 matches, and as they have all season, were led by their superstar trio in quelling a pesky Shopinas side in Game Two. Named the conference’s Best Middle Blockers, Aby Maraño and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, topped all scorers with 18 points each, while AFC MVP, Rachel Anne Daquis had a solid 16-point outing.

On the other side of the court, Shopinas.com leaned heavily on their outside hitters to grab points throughout the season. It was no different in their final match as their starting trio of outside spikers were the only ones who delivered double-digit performances. PSL Ambassador, Cha Cruz led all Lady Clickers with 13 points, her La Salle teammate, Paneng Mercado, managed 11 markers, while NU’s Rizza Mandapat scrounged up 12 points.

The Lady Clickers are known for being a steady defensive team that leaned heavily on their blocking to disrupt their opponent’s groove. Shopinas, however, just couldn’t handle Petron’s dynamic offense, and their offense also went stale for a good chunk of the Finals, as their outside hits were easily telegraphed by the Petron’s blockers and back row. Petron out-spiked all their foes by double digits in the conference, capping their brilliance by producing a 55-38 gap in attacks between them and the Lady Clickers in Game Two.

In the first set, Shopinas had control of the tempo, building a 16-13 lead. From that point, the Blaze Spikers stepped on the gas pedal and went on to net 12 of the next 13 points to win the set handily. Petron nearly had the following set as well, as they mounted a late comeback with Shopinas already at set point. Shopinas’ 24-18 lead evaporated as Petron scored four consecutive points, but a Cha Cruz drop shot gave the Lady Clickers their only set of the Finals.

The third set had much of the heavy back-and-forth play similar to the first two sets, which setup an epic deuce. Shopinas had five total chances at set point throughout the deuce, but Petron handled each return kill with their veteran composure. Petron made the most of their only set point opportunity, scoring three consecutive points from trailing 27-28, to take the 2-1 set lead.

Shopinas battled mightily in the final set of the season, but Petron had their plays figured out. Petron methodically kept adding to their lead, and when the time came to go in for the kill, Manabat and Maraño combined to score five of Petron’s last six points to punctuate their magical season.

Petron now has back-to-back titles after winning last season’s Grand Prix over Shopinas as well (formerly the Generika Lifesavers).

The Scores:

Petron (3) – Manabat 18, Maraño 18, Daquis 16, Molina 10, Morada 6, Cayetano 2, Masangkay 1, Perez 1, Aganon 1, Reyes (L)

Shopinas.com (1) – Cruz 13, Mandapat 12, Mercado 11, Higpit 6, Dy 5, Angustia 4, Laborte 3, Cheng 0, Guevara 0, Tan 0, General (L)

CLICK IMAGE FOR THE PSL AFC AWARDING CEREMONY

Tiebreaker Times Unbeatable: Petron sweeps entire season to claim first AFC title

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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