Despite being one set down, the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers handed the Petron Blaze Spikers their first loss in the PSL All Filipino Conference 2018 and forced a winner-take-all Game 3 in their intense Finals series.
Petron draws first blood
The Blaze Spikers had a quick start in the first set with four straight points but the Cargo Movers responded with three of their own to trim the lead to one. Aiza Maizo-Pontillas’ soft touch followed by a Michelle Morente spike off the Petron blockers brought the score to 5-4. However, a quick 3-1 run engineered by Maizo-Pontillas and Ces Molina made the score 8-5 going into the first technical timeout.
Petron embarked on a 6-0 to stretch their lead to seven but two errors made the count 14-7. It was then F2’s time to respond with their own 5-0 run that is punctuated by Pons’ four touches error. Yet the Cargo Movers made a couple of errors that allowed the Blaze Spikers to retain a 16-14 lead by the second TTO.
The squad of Coach Shaq delos Santos started another 5-1 run to move within four points of the Set 1 win. But Morente and Ara Galang made sure that the Cargo Movers won’t go down without a fight to shorten the lead to 22-20. But Petron took the set at 25-21 courtesy of crucial hits by Molina and Palma.
F2 Logistics delivers in the second set
The two squads sparked a see-saw battle but the Cargo Movers emerged on top with an 8-7 advantage. It was all F2 Logistics after the first technical timeout as they unleashed an aggressive service and middle game to limit Petron to one point in between the two TTOs. The lead went as high as twelve, 22-20, before Petron scored six straight points to slash the deficit in half.
Cha Cruz-Behag finally scored on a cross court attact to move within two points of tying the match. But three straight points for Petron made the tally 23-19. Baron then connected on consecutive quick attacks from the middle to end the set at 25-19.
Cargo Movers takes the third
Petron must have carried some negative energy from the second set as first ball problems continued to dog them in the third. The Cargo Movers raced to a 10-5 lead and played a side-out game with the Blaze Spikers to lead 16-12 by the second technical timeout. A Baron block on Cherry Ann Rondina extended the lead to five, 17-12, but Reyes responded with a quick attack to bring back the deficit to four.
F2 Logistics made four straight points to double the lead to 21-13 but the defending champions initiated a 7-2 run to trim the advantage to three. A four touches error by Molina and a soft touch by Galang brought the Cargo Movers to within one set of a win, 25-20. The squad of Coach Ramil De Jesus would not clinch the set if not for two excellent digs by libero Dawn Macandili.
F2 seals the deal in the fourth
Another soft touch by Galang posted a 9-6 lead for the Cargo Movers. But an error from the PSL Invitational Conference 2018 MVP plus two scores from Rondina and Molina tied the count at nine. Petron took the lead at 11-10 with a kill block by Molina but two errors from Pons returned the favor to F2, 12-11. The Cargo Movers’ fortified defense forced the Blaze Spikers to commit critical errors that handed them a 16-12 edge coming into the second TTO.
The two multi-titled teams traded points until the tally reached 21-17 for F2. An off-target spike by Pons, an Aby Marano kill block, and two successful spikes for Cruz-Behag ended the set, the match, and Petron’s undefeated run at 25-17.
Galang (20 points) and Cruz-Behag (13) were named Players of the Game. Baron tallied 14 markers on ten attack points, three blocks, and an ace. Morente and Marano added ten and eight points, respectively. Kim Fajardo collected three scores. Macandili also had an excellent game with 33 excellent digs off 50 tries to go with 16 service receptions out of 19 attempts.
On the other hand, team captain Molina led the Blaze Spikers with 17 points, 16 coming from spikes, while Maizo-Pontillas supported with 11. Pons and Rondina had ten and nine points, respectively. Remy Palma made seven, Reyes chipped in five, and Rhea Dimaculangan scored a pair of points. Libero Ria Duremdes also had a commendable performance with 33 digs off 51 opportunities.
Fighting and winning through pain
Despite the injuries that key F2 Logistics players are dealing with, Galang mentioned that it will not hinder them from giving their best. “Siguro yun mga sakit-sakit, hindi na namin iniisip yun. Sine-set aside namin yun. Pumupunta kami dito para maglaro talaga at para manalo. So, ibibigay lang namin yun best namin, yun na training namin ia-apply namin. Basta maglalaro lang talaga kami ng all out,” she stated in the post-game interview.
Meanwhile, Cruz-Behag revealed that sticking to their game plan while being on the same page is the key to their victory. “It’s all Jesus. Siya ang nagbibigay ng kumpiyansa sa amin. Also, yun tiwala ng coach na nagbibigay ng confidence sa amin and sumusunod lang po kami sa instructions na binibigay niya sa amin. We worked as a team today, maganda yun chemistry, less errors, and nag-focus kami sa strength ng bawat isa,” the F2 Logistics team captain responded.
F2’s victory gave Petron their first Philippine Superliga loss since July 2018. More importantly, the Cargo Movers extended the PSL All Filipino Conference 2018 Finals series to a third and deciding game that will be played on Thursday, December 20 at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.