Lady Eagles soar high over Angels

By the third set, the Petro Gazz Angels were in cloud nine after inching closer to victory. After what they have done to the Creamline Cool Smashers in the fifth set of their PVL Open Conference 2018 encounter, it would be a feather in their cap if they can defeat the Ateneo De Manila-Motolite Lady Eagles too.

However, the Katipunan-based volleybelles responded mightily with their backs against the wall. They turned up the intensity and dominated a complacent Petro Gazz squad in the fourth set, 25-14, and sealed the deal in five, 15-7. What changed? Their floor defense took flight.

For this game, it’s not just about the Lady Eagles overpowering a defensively-solid Petro Gazz squad. Rather, it boiled down to outlasting their opponents. Ateneo had 88 excellent digs over five sets which amount to over 17 per set. Those digs extend rallies and having more of it provides additional chances to score. Out of the Lady Eagles’ total, 35 were courtesy of setter Deanna Wong and libero Dani Ravena.

By disheartening the Petro Gazz spikers that their attacks will either be blocked or digged, the Lady Eagles gained momentum while the Angels got lost. Before our own eyes, this Ateneo team is showing composure against more-experienced opponents to register two victories in as many starts.

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First set – height is might

The opening set ended with Ateneo getting a slight edge, 25-21. Early on, they have established their height advantage by continually attacking the Petro Gazz blockers. While there would be times when the Angels can stop their plays, Ateneo just had too much firepower. Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, Kat Tolentino, and Vanie Gandler collaborated for 15 attack points and three kill blocks while their competitors only had 13 and one, respectively. It seemed that the Lady Eagles will be in cruise control for this game. But Petro Gazz refuelled their strategy.

Second and third sets – angelic display by Petro Gazz

In one of the time-outs, Coach Jerry Yee summarized the key to success for the Angels: “don’t engage the Ateneo blockers upfront”. The Lady Eagles have established their dominance in the net that straight-up attacks can get blocked. This prompted the Angels to be creative against Ateneo’s defense which resulted in a convincing 14-9 attacks advantage in the second which is comprised of cross-court attacks and dinks. Petro Gazz also had one more block and two more aces than Ateneo to claim the set.

The same script prevailed in the third set as Petro Gazz sped up the pace of the game by executing quicker sets at the middle and on the slides. As a result, they forced Ateneo to commit eight errors in crucial stages of the set. The Angels also exploited the Lady Eagles’ confusion in the zones to collect three aces. Ateneo’s disarray could have caused them to fold. But Coach Oliver Almadro’s motivational approach kept them going.

Fourth and fifth sets – second wind on Ateneo’s wings

Petro Gazz came out flat in the final two sets as the Lady Eagles kept on hammering away. Paneng Mercado, Jonah Sabete, Cherry Nunag, and Rachel Ann Austero tried mightily to hold the fort for the Angels but were foiled by the revitalized Lady Eagles. Tolentino led the charge by punishing defenders at the opposite spiker position where she is most comfortable at. Madayag found holes in the Petro Gazz formation with her quick strikes while Gandler provided support in the open.

When the Angels managed to execute good attacks, the Lady Eagles will prolong the rally and turn it into scoring opportunities for themselves. Petro Gazz’ 67 excellent digs out of 177 tries is impressive in its own right but not in this game. Ateneo willed themselves to not let the ball drop in their floor as if it was a bomb. The Angels are left seeking for answers on how they lost the momentum.

Leading scorers and next games

Tolentino led all scorers with 24 points (20 spikes, three blocks, one ace) while Madayag tallied 16 (13 spikes, three blocks). Gandler came in just a point shy at 15 while De Leon and Deanna Wong had six markers apiece. Kim Gequillana added three points while rookies Janel Maraguinot, Samantha Fanger, and Erika Raagas all had one point each.

Sabete led the Angels’ charge with 13 points while Mercado and Nunag had 11 and ten, respectively. Kai Nepomuceno – Baloaloa contributed eight while Austero tallied seven in just two sets. Chie Saet had five points, Alyssa Layug netted four, and Mary Anne Mendrez collected three markers. Ranya Musa, the second leading scorer for Petro Gazz in their previous PVL Open Conference 2018 match against Iriga, only had two in this game while libero Marites Pablo is credited with a single point.

Petro Gazz will try to get back on track on the 13th of October against the Adamson-Akari Lady Falcons. Meanwhile, Ateneo-Motolite will fight for a 3-0 start versus the BanKo Perlas Lady Spikers on October 7.

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