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Undeterred Foton survives F2 pressure, sends series to Game 3

Feeling the pressure of another do-or-die game and the jeers of the F2 Logistics faithful in attendance, the AVC Club Championships representatives of the Philippines did not falter.

The Foton Tornadoes, behind spectacular outings by Jaja Santiago and Cherry Rondina, were able to overcome a slow start, besting the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in four sets, 18-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-18, to send the 2016 PSL All-Filipino Conference Finals series to a winner-take-all Game Three Saturday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

6’6″ middle blocker Jaja Santiago led all scorers with 19 markers, 14 coming from attacks, three from blocks, and two points from aces. Sparkplug Cherry Rondina added 15 points to will the Tornadoes all throughout the game.

“Nung game one ang dami naming binigay na free points. We stressed that our errors were unforced. Ang approach namin is that F2 has to work for their points,” Foton head coach Vilet Ponce-De Leon shared.

However, the stinging Game One loss seemed to linger on the minds of the Tornadoes in the first set, falling behind by as much as seven points 19-12. Moreover, even if Foton’s frontline were able to keep Game One hero Aby Marano in check during the set, Mika Reyes was let loose to lift the Cargo Movers. Reyes, together with Ara Galang, closed out the set for F2.

“We prepared mentally. We re-strategized kung ano ang pinagprepera namin before and executed the gameplan,” Ponce-De Leon said. “It’s more of the mental as we watched Game One over and over again.”

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Just like in the third set of the series opener, the Tornadoes blitzed the Cargo Movers in the second stanza, 7-0, behind the combined efforts of Patty Orendain, who finished the game with 10 markers, and Maika Ortiz, who added 13 big points for the Tornadoes. Foton easily took the set, even leading by as much as ten points 19-9.

Needing to win the pivotal third set, both teams fought tooth and nail, exchanging leads at a furious pace.

“Alam naman namin na fight to the end ang kalaban, we just had to regroup at gawin lang yung ginagawa namin sa practice,” the PSL champion coach said.

As F2 held a 21-18 lead in the set and everything looking lost for the Tornadoes, Foton, in a blink of an eye, found its second win. A kill by Rondina and an attack error by Galang tied the set at 22-all. Suddenly the momentum had shifted as the Cargo Movers’ floor defense disappeared. An ace by Rhea Dimaculangan and back-to-back kills by team captain Angeli Araneta and Rondina capped a stunning 5-2 Foton rally.

There was a slight delay in the fourth set as a leak from the rooftop of the arena stopped play for at least 15 minutes with Foton leading 9-7. Though momentary stoppage though did not halt Foton’s momentum, eventually gaining a 19-14 lead. Errors, both attacking and receiving, compounded the problem for F2. With Foton leading 23-18, an overreach by Kim Dy and an attack error by Marano sent the series into a deciding Game Three.

F2 committed 29 errors in the game, majority coming in the crucial stages of the game.

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The top overall pick in the 2016 PSL draft Ara Galang paced F2 with 16 points while UAAP Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Dy added 11 markers. Kim Fajardo had 46 excellent sets in the game.

The winner-take-all Game Three of the 2016 PSL All-Filipino Conference Finals is set to take place on Wednesday, August 17 at 5:00pm. The Filoil Flying V Centre will still host the all-important game.

“Dun sa old players namin, nasa isip siguro nila ‘here we go again,”‘ Ponce-Deleon closed. “All we have to think about this time is think of our experience and recall what it feels like to be in a Game Three.”

The Scores:

Foton (3) – Santiago 19, Rondina 15, Ortiz 13, Orendain 10, Araneta 5, Dimaculangan 2, Laure 0, Perez 0, Macatuno 0, Opp error 29, General (L), Acevedo (L).

F2 Logistics (1) – Galang 16, Dy 11, Marano 9, Reyes 9, Meracado 5, Fajardo 4, Dy 4, Baron 1, Demecillo 0, Opp error 23, Macandili (L)

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