How did the PH NT stars perform in the PSL Grand Prix

After representing the country in last year’s Asian Games and AVC Cup for Women, some members of the Philippine women’s volleyball team sprung into action in the PSL Grand Prix 2019. Here’s how they fared during the import-laden competition.

Champions again

Mika Reyes and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas hoisted the championship trophy once again with the Petron Blaze Spikers. The opposite spiker bounced back in the second and third games after a dismal performance in the first. She scored seven points to help Petron extend the series and six in the title-clinching victory.

Meanwhile, the Taft Tower has helped Katherine Bell and Stephanie Niemer fortify the Petron net defense. She tallied 13 markers in game two of the Finals. Reyes only had six points in the last game of the conference but four of which are kill blocks.

Who could forget about Denden Lazaro’s performance in Game 3? She willed herself to defend the Petron floor even though she was under the weather. The result? Her first championship in the Philippine Superliga. It was her first title since Ateneo’s perfect run in UAAP Season 77.

Reyes, Maizo-Pontillas, and Lazaro will be vital in the Blaze Spikers’ quest to defend their All Filipino Conference crown with National Team head coach Shaq delos Santos at the helm.

Coming up short

Having a number of F2 Logistics Cargo Movers players donning the country’s colors is a testament to Coach Ramil de Jesus’ mastery of developing talent. It’s just sad that they came up short against the Blaze Spikers even if they had MJ Perez and Lindsay Stalzer in the fold.

One could argue that the outcome might have been different if some of their key players took the floor in the Finals. Kim Kianna Dy is still recovering from a knee injury. Meanwhile, Kim Fajardo was operated on the finger that she injured while trying to block a Kalei Mau spike. Likewise, it might take a while before team captain Cha Cruz-Behag returns because she is expecting a child.

But those who remained held the fort to the best of their abilities. Majoy Baron averaged close to seven points per contest during the championship series and her quick strikes from the middle helped the Cargo Movers seal the first game. Aby Marano’s leadership helped F2 weather the storms in their campaign to make her the best local middle blocker of the PSL Grand Prix 2019.

As always, Dawn Macandili suddenly pops out of nowhere to make her heart-stopping saves. Ms. Everywhere averaged 25 digs and 14 receptions per outing in the three-game Finals. She was also named Best Libero of the tournament.

It remains to be seen if the Cargo Movers will even the score against Petron in the AFC. But the influx of De La Salle players after their UAAP campaign might help them get over the hump.

Fighting for third

The PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters couldn’t replicate their preliminary round victory against F2 Logistics. They were relegated to the knock-out bronze medal match against Mylene Paat and the Cignal HD Spikers.

Grethcel Soltones regained her form in time for this contest. Her shoulder injury was a thing of the past after scoring 12 points to help her squad finish third. She won’t be just a back liner during the All Filipino Conference. Rather, she will be a focal point of the PLDT offense with Aiko Urdas and Sasa Devanadera.

But the Roger Gorayeb-coached squad won’t enjoy this level of success if not for setter Jasmine Nabor. She was able to develop a connection with their imports while still involving her fellow locals in the offense. Nabor was a huge reason why four Power Hitters reached double figures.

On the other hand, Paat has been sparingly used as a utility spiker and middle hitter by Coach Edgar Barroga. That transition unsettled her for a number of games as she came off the bench. The Pangasinan native did have a fine performance in the bronze medal match with 11 points. However, PLDT just had a slight edge to claim a five-set victory.

Paat will return to the game-changing scorer that she is by taking her natural zone. If that goes well, the HD Spikers might finish higher than fourth in the 2019 PSL AFC.

Giving the Cargo Movers a hard time

The Foton Tornadoes Blue Energy gave the Cargo Movers a scare in the quarterfinals due to their returning stars. Fresh from her stint in the Japanese V.League, Jaja Santiago scored 20 to force a rubber match against F2.

She and her sister, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, followed that up by tallying 14 markers apiece. However, the Tornadoes fell to the Cargo Movers in four sets to end their semifinal hopes. Maika Ortiz scored nine and five points in those two games, respectively.