Foton-Petron rivalry heats up

The bitter rivalry that is quietly simmering underneath is tipped to explode in the open when Foton and Petron figure in a sudden-death semifinal duel in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference Thursday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

After breezing through their respective quarterfinal assignments, both the Tornadoes are the Blaze Spikers will surely go all out to grab a seat in the best-of-three finals where they would face the survivor between the F2 Logistics-Cignal encounter.

This encounter has all the ingredients of becoming a classic.

Although the Tornadoes lost the support crew of its championship team, Serbian head coach Moro Branislav did a marvelous job steering them to an impressive performance in the preliminaries.

Foton, in fact, won all but one game in the first two rounds of action.

And that lone setback came from the hands of Petron.

Yes, Petron appears to hold the key in solving this great Foton riddle.

In their previous encounter, the core of Mika Reyes, Remy Palma and Marivic Meneses did a fantastic job defending the net, leaving no room for Jaja Santiago and EJ Laure to operate.

The Blaze Spikers fell behind, 1-2, but Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Bernadeth Pons and Cherry Rondina conspired to drag the match into a deciding fifth set, much to the excitement of the great weekend crowd at the Batangas Coliseum in Batangas City.

Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, then, torn a page from his championship playbook when he turned to Chin Basas and Rondina down the stretch to eke out a nail-biting 25-20, 18-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11 victory.

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Heated rivalry

The rivalry between Foton and Petron goes way, way back.

After the domination of Philippine Army in the league’s first three conferences, Petron inherited the throne as it won the 2014 Grand Prix with Erica Adachi and Alaina Bergsma as reinforcements.

As if that wasn’t enough, Petron recruited Rachel Anne Daquis and Aby Marano to further boost its roster of Dindin Manabat, Carmina Aganon, File Cayetano and Maica Morada.

The result was historic as the Blaze Spikers registered a clean sweep of the 2015 All-Filipino Conference – a feat that remains unmatched up to this day.

But the good times never last.

A fitting rival, the successor to the throne, was born.

With Lindsay Stalzer moving from Cignal to Foton to join Katie Messing as reinforcement. Local stars like Jaja Santiago, Angeli Araneta and Patty Orendain also connived to assemble a solid roster.

The Tornadoes’ highest moment came when they dethroned Petron in the 2015 Grand Prix.

The Blaze Spikers, who were bannered by the prized triumvirate of Manabat, Daquis and Marano as well as Brazilian reinforcements Adachi and Rupia Inck were no match to the hunger and desire of the Tornadoes.

The two squads clashed again the following year, this time with different set of reinforcements

Stalzer is now in connivance with another former Cignal import in Ariel Usher for Foton while Petron brought in the high-flying Stephanie Niemer and blocker Serena Warner.

Providing the drama was the thrash talking between Stalzer and Niemer as well as the transfer of Manabat to Foton and recruitment of Serbian coach Moro Branislav.

A long-time volleyball observer said these developments obviously spiced up the finals.

[quote]“These two teams – Petron and Foton – were a match made in heaven.”[/quote]

[quote]“Even if they deny it, it was obvious that were was something bigger was at stake aside from the bragging rights of becoming the champion. It appears that pride and reputation were on the line.”[/quote]

Foton emerged victorious.

But the story didn’t end there.