Stephanie Niemer was at her best when Petron made a brazen attempt of dethroning Foton in a best-of-three finals showdown of the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Saturday at the Philsports Arena.
Niemer delivered such a spectacular performance.
She erupted for 32 points in Game 1, but the Tri-Activ Spikers had a massive collapse down the stretch as the Tornadoes crawled back from a 0-2 deficit to eke out a heart-stopping five-set victory.
In Game 2, hopes were high on these Tri-Activ Spikers as Niemer exploded a new, finishing with 29 kills, a block and an ace for 31 points, much to the delight of thousands of Petron hopefuls who are hoping and praying for a kill-or-be killed Game 3.
But still, Petron failed to deliver.
The Tornadoes were hot from start to finish to pull off a masterful four-set conquest that crowned them as queens of Grand Prix and gave them a golden ticket to compete in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship that will be held in Kazakhstan in April.
Amid the celebration of these Tornadoes, Niemer left standing at centercourt – motionless, speechless.
She couldn’t believe why they couldn’t solve this great Foton riddle.
And as she flies back to the United States this Wednesday, she would not only carry the bittersweet memories of Manila. She would also be nursing a broken heart.
Niemer was obviously the dynamo that kept these Tri-Activ Spikers going.
She can practically do anything on the court from serving to blocking, passing and digging. She is a leader who can rally her teammates and power them to victory no matter how difficult circumstances may be.
But superhumans also have their weaknesses.
And Niemer admitted that she’s hurt with how things went, especially in Game 1 where the victory was almost within reach until the video challenge official erred in rejecting a crucial challenge raised by Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos.
[quote]It’s absolutely disappointing because we gave all our heart in Game 1. I think in the fifth set, we let outside forces affect us and I don’t think we could get pass it. We deserve Game 1, but there’s nothing we can do now. That’s so heartbreaking for us.[/quote]
Niemer said Foton is so strong, so talented to handle.
In Game 2, in fact, the tall frontline of Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat, Lindsay Stalzer, Ariel Usher and Maika Ortiz asserted its might and clobbered the Tri-Activ Spikers in the first two sets before going for the kill in the fourth set.
Niemer, for her part, looked like a rugged soldier fighting a lonely battle.
Still, she refused to blame her teammates.
[quote]I think everybody played their role as best as they could and that’s all we needed, but it’s tough. Playing against a team like Foton, they have four to five tall players who could all score. We’re a little bit shorter and the odds were stacked against us. That’s my team. I can’t blame anybody for anything.[/quote]
Despite falling short, Niemer still believes that it was such a great experience for her.
“It was such a great experience. I really like my team and the people here in the Philippines. Everybody is so sweet. It’s a nice change of phase to be around like so many friendly people everywhere. So it’s really great.”
Niemer said she would be leaving next week for a brief rest before flying to Puerto Rico for another overseas assignment in January.
Although it’s a bit early, a lot of PSL clubs are already lining up to get her services for next year. Even Petron privately expressed its willingness to have her for another chance of dethroning the mighty Tornadoes.
Niemer said anything is possible.
Her doors will be open.
[quote]Anything is possible. I’m kind of winding down in my career. I don’t want to do anything super long unless it’s right. But I think the door is definitely open for me to come back. We’ll see.[/quote]
As balloons and confetti rain on these mighty Tornadoes, Niemer was there – motionless, speechless.
Finally, she flashed a smile.
She has no regrets.
She knows she did her best.
But, yes, her best wasn’t good enough to carry these Tri-Activ Spikers back to the throne.